Personal flight opportunities just got a little closer to reality for the public. A company called Kitty Hawk introduced its one-seater individual aircraft for test flights by hopeful buyers.
The company is backed by one of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page. Created last year, Kitty Hawk is named for the location of the Wright brothers’ famous first flight near the North Carolina Outer Banks. Its goal is to bring “the freedom of flight” to everyone.
This spring, Kitty Hawk unveiled a model of a personal craft it calls the “Flyer.” The Flyer seats one and is designed to use vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), like a helicopter or large drone. It has 10 small rotors rather than wings and propulsion engines like an airplane.
The Flyer is currently limited to speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and a height of just 10 feet for beginning users. The controls are purposefully simple to use. They work more like operating a drone or a video game than an actual airplane. Under these conditions, the Flyer is approved by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for use by laymen and not restricted to only trained pilots. It and other such individual craft are restricted presently to operation in uncongested flight areas, such as over lakes and rural fields.
A spokeswoman for Kitty Hawk says that individual flight craft like the Flyer will be the “vehicles of the future.” The website calls the Flyer “the first step to make flying part of everyday life.” Financial backer Page is focusing on building networks with other personal flight visionaries to get the Flyer into more people’s hands—or garages, as it might turn out. One goal is to find investors who will purchase “fleets” of the Flyer for use in recreational settings. Rent a bike at the beach? How about renting a personal aircraft too?
The company hosts its own training facility to allow interested parties to try out the Flyer. No price is yet specified for the vehicle, but interested buyers can apply online to be invited to purchase.
Kitty Hawk isn’t the only company on the market though. Lilium Aviation of Germany, EHang of China, and Uber—among several other tech and aviation companies—are all actively working on VTOL vehicles.