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Original Zee Aero Concept Now Public

Original Zee Now Public In a CNN episode airing on Dec. 24, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Kitty Hawk/Zee Aero. Thrun unveiled the first public flight footage of the original eVTOL concept built and flown by Zee Aero in 2013. The video showed a subscale model (shown) perform a vertical takeoff, a transition to 60 mph (100 km/h) and a vertical landing. This concept was replaced by a more advanced version that has been conducting manned flights at Hollister Municipal Airport, about 35 miles (55 km) southeast of San Jose, California. Meanwhile, the Kitty Hawk Flyer production model will be unveiled this Spring. Zee Aero is a subsidiary of Kitty Hawk.

Zee Aero

Zee Aero Z-P2

Z-P2 Zee Aero (now the Cora product line of Kitty Hawk) Mountain View, California, USA Zee Aero, now part of Kitty Hawk, developed the Z-P2 full-scale, manned eVTOL aircraft, flying it at Hollister Municipal Airport in California. Steve Eggleston at DK Turbines was first to photograph the aircraft being towed out to the runway on Oct. 10, 2016 (photo by Steve Eggleston, used with permission). The aircraft began conducting manned hover testing in March 2017. The effort began in March 2010, originally under the leadership of Prof. Ilan Kroo of Stanford University. Patent 9,242,738 (priority date July 19, 2011) illustrates a high-mounted series of vertically mounted electric propellers similar the first vehicle, the Proof of Concept (POC). The POC made its first unmanned (self-piloted) hover in Dec. 2011, and in Feb. 2014, completed its first transition. The aircraft demonstrated flights up to 60 mph (100 km/h) with vertical take-offs and landings. The aircraft was publicly unveiled by Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun in Dec. 2017. Kitty Hawk is privately funded by Google co-founder, billionaire Larry Page. Thrun was previously at Google, where he founded Google X and Google’s self driving car team. On March 12, 2018, Kitty Hawk unveiled more details about Z-P2 and Zee — now dubbed the Cora product team —and announced that it had been flying several of its Cora 2-seat manned aircraft. Kitty Hawk also provided the first detailed look at the development of the Zee Aero line of eVTOL aircraft. There was a full-scale Z-P1 that flew horizontally only, but it was not considered successful. Parts were used for the Z-P2 aircraft. Based on US Federal Aviation Administration records, sightings of Z-P2 were originally thought to be the Z-P1. The FAA Registry database for Zee Aero listed N101XZ (model Z-P1) and N102XZ — the POC, with the listed model name of “MUTT”. The full-scale manned Z-P2 made its first flight in late 2016; in August 2017, the Z-P2 made its first transition. Testing of Z-P2 led to the initiation of the two-seat Cora demonstrator in California, and its subsequent testing in New Zealand by Kitty Hawk subsidiary Zephyr.Resources Search eVTOL news posts Website:, March 12, 2018 Article: Zee Z-P1 Spotted Again, eVTOL News, May 2, 2017 Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March/April 2017 Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, January/February 2017 Article: Lift Where You Need It, Vertiflite, November/December 2016 Article: AHS International Leads Transformative Vertical Flight Initiative, eVTOL News, November 1, 2014 Video: Making Flying Cars a Reality, CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS, December 24, 2017 Patents: Zee Aero Tags: Zee Aero, Lift + Cruise

Zee Aero Z-P1, March 2, 2017

Zee eVTOL Spotted Again

Zee Aero continues manned flight-testing of its full-scale eVTOL aircraft in forward flight at Hollister Municipal Airport, about 50 statute miles (80 km) southeast of its offices in Mountain View, California. The company continues its silence, but more details have been leaking out. According to public US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) database information, the aircraft has the registration number N102XZ. The aircraft is listed as a glider, with (apparently) eight electric motors and a single seat. The company had previously registered five of its QZ unmanned drones; registration information indicates that the QZ weighs less than 55 lb (25 kg) and powered by eight electric motors. More: Zee’s VTOL aircraft came out,, Nov. 9, 2016 Update/corrections, March 12, 2018 Meet Cora, Vertiflite, April 19, 2018 Zee Aero Z-P2 entry, Updated March 19, 2018

Kitty Hawk Enters Service

Kitty Hawk Enters Service By Kenneth I. Swartz Vertiflite, July/August 2018 Kitty Hawk is taking electric vertical flight to the consumer market. If the Flyer lives up to its promises, hundreds — if not thousands — will be flying every day. The recent explosion of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft development has engaged a wide audience of engineers, technologists, enthusiasts and investors, as well as the general public. (News about and details on the 100 electric VTOL designs can be found in the Vertical Flight Society’s online directory: While many eVTOL aircraft are targeted at the emerging urban air mobility (UAM) market, Kitty Hawk is taking orders for its Flyer, a single-seat eVTOL that is a US Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 103 ultralight aircraft. The production Flyer was first revealed in early June at a “pop up” flight test center located on the northwestern shore of Lake Las Vegas, a man-made oasis about 14 miles (23 km) east of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. The elegant little Flyer is the first eVTOL aircraft in the world to enter service. The ultralight aviation sector has always been open to innovation, but what sets Flyer apart from any other aircraft (either ultralight or a conventional aircraft certification) is that even a nonpilot can fly it safely after about two hours of training. That’s a transformational change in the world of aviation as we’ve known it, and “an exciting first step to sharing the freedom of flight,” said Kitty Hawk. First Prototype The prototype Flyer was first unveiled April 24, 2017, with three aspirational videos that teased the market and inspired viewers to fly. In the first video, the Flyer ‘sky danced’ over the surface of a scenic lake like a personal watercraft that suddenly broke free of gravity and started to fly. In the second video, a young woman invited to a lakeside dinner party arrived by Flyer and landed on a dock to the astonishment of her friends. And the third video documented a Flyer flight demonstration in San Francisco harbor witnessed by a small crowd. The aircraft takes its name from the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, which launched the “age of the flying machine” with four successful heavier-than-air powered flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on the eastern shore of the US, on Dec. 17, 1903. The new flyer was announced to the world one day prior to the first Uber Elevate summit in Dallas, Texas, which increased public awareness of eVTOL aircraft and the role they are expected to play in the emerging UAM market. Kitty Hawk’s product launch didn’t upstage the Uber event, but strongly signaled that other Silicon Valley tech companies and visionaries were just as serious about developing innovative eVTOL aircraft. Kitty Hawk is funded by Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, and led by CEO Sebastian Thrun who founded the Google X lab (since renamed “X Development LLC”), the semi-secret research and development facility where self-driving cars and Internet-synched eyewear were developed for parent …

Lift + Cruise

Lift + Cruise Completely independent thrusters used for cruise as for lift: AeroMobil 5.0 Aergility ATLIS Aurora Flight Sciences eVTOL EAC Whisper Embraer DreamMaker Flexcraft (unnamed) HoverSurf Formula Kitty Hawk Cora Napoleon Aero VTOL Pipistrel (unnamed) Ray Research VTOL Aircraft Terrafugia TF-2 Lift + Push Urban Aeronautics CityHawk Zee Aero Z-P2 Not what you’re looking for? Check out all eVTOL

Uber announces new partnerships and aircraft concepts at 2nd annual Elevate Summit

Uber Elevate Press Release, May 9, 2018 On the first day of its second annual Elevate Summit, Uber unveiled a series of new advancements and partnerships that are helping launch the world’s first urban aviation network. Six months after announcing Los Angeles would be one of the first U.S. cities to launch uberAIR, the company reinforced its partnerships with key manufacturers and technology companies, working together towards a goal of launching flight demonstrations in 2020 and commercial trips by 2023. “Today, Uber’s annual Elevate Summit took flight to showcase the aviation industry’s advancements on many fronts needed to make uberAIR a reality by 2023,” said Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer. “This includes multiple vehicle designs, new battery technology, manufacturing improvements and the ‘operating system’ that will enable safe, precise, environmentally friendly operations at scale and allow cities to radically improve their transit networks. This gargantuan effort to ‘push a button and get a flight’ can only be accomplished through close partnership across the public and private sectors, and that’s exactly what Elevate Summits are all about.” Uber will not manufacture the vehicles but will work with industry leaders to produce vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that will use the uberAIR network. Some of the key announcements from the first day of the summit include: New uberAIR Common Reference Model: Uber showcased a new uberAIR common reference model which will fly more than 1,000 feet above the ground at a speed of 150 to 200 miles per hour. The model features four sets of electric propellers dedicated to vertical takeoff and landing which will make the aircraft safer and help reduce noise, making it significantly quieter than existing helicopters. Embraer showcased its first VTOL model: The new Embraer X marks a new direction for the company, which has designed, developed and certified close to 50 aircraft models, delivering more than 8,000 aircraft to 100 countries. New concept model from Pipistrel: Pipistrel, manufacturers of the world’s first FAA-approved electric plane, the Alpha Electro, revealed a new concept model which uses dedicated propulsion systems for both cruising and vertical lift. Karem Aircraft joins as a new Elevate vehicle partner: Uber and Karem will collaborate on their latest Butterfly aircraft, a quad tiltrotor with four large rotors mounted on the wings and tail. This design solves the tradeoff between hover and cruise efficiency, allowing for lift but creating a much quieter 100 percent electric vehicle for the uberAIR network. New research agreement with the U.S. Army: To help create new quieter, higher performing rotor systems that will be used in the Common Reference Model, Uber and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Research Lab, have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) and a Joint Work Statement (JWS). This agreement includes joint funding and research development to create the first stacked co-rotating propeller; a new concept with two rotors placed on top of each other which rotate in the same direction and are significantly quieter for a flying craft. …

Meet Cora

Meet Cora By Mike Hirschberg Vertiflite May/June 2018 On March 12, Kitty Hawk revealed its latest surprise: Cora. After nearly eight years of secretive electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft development, the Mountain View, California-based company backed by Google co-founder Larry Page finally went public. With the hashtag #MeetCora, Kitty Hawk announced that it had been flying a two-seat derivative of the Zee Aero Z-P2 (see “Electric VTOL News,” Vertiflite March/April 2018) in California and in New Zealand. The company also announced that it had established Zephyr Airworks, the operator of Cora in New Zealand. Zephyr Airworks was started in December 2016 to be able to test and work with the New Zealand government, the Māori people, business partners and the community. “New Zealand is recognized for its safety-focused regulatory environment and a strong history of excellence in airspace management,” the company states on its website. The company shipped its first air taxi to New Zealand in October 2017 and began testing shortly after that. Cora was developed by what had been known as Zee Aero, which was originally founded in 2010 by Larry Page. In 2015, he started a separate electric VTOL company, Kitty Hawk. Many of the leading participants at Aerovelo — the Toronto team that won the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition in 2013 — moved to California to join the new company (see “Back to Kitty Hawk,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2017). Zee became a subsidiary of Kitty Hawk in 2016 and has now evolved into Cora. As the company explains: “Zee Aero was the name of our Cora team while we were in [the] development stage. Now that the Cora prototype is in the market, we wanted a name that reflected the spirit of Kitty Hawk’s mission of bringing everyday flight to everyone.” (The company is separately developing the Kitty Hawk Flyer, a personal amphibious eVTOL aircraft to go on sale later this year.) Zee History As covered in prior issues of Vertiflite, Zee Aero developed the Z-P2 full-scale, manned eVTOL aircraft, flying it at Hollister Municipal Airport in California. The effort began in March 2010, originally under the leadership of Prof. Ilan Kroo of Stanford University. Patent 9,242,738 (priority date July 19, 2011) illustrates a high-mounted series of vertically mounted electric propellers similar to the first vehicle, which was given the deceptively dull name, “Proof of Concept” (POC). The subscale POC made its first unmanned (self-piloted) hover in December 2011 and completed its first transition in February 2014. The aircraft demonstrated flights up to 60 mph (100 km/h) with vertical takeoffs and landings. The aircraft was publicly unveiled by Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun (see sidebar) on CNN in December 2017. Next came the manned Z-P1, which only made conventional takeoffs and landings, and was not pursued further; however, parts were used for a new approach, Z-P2, pursued under the new CEO, Dr. Eric Allison. Although some surreptitious photos of subscale aircraft had leaked out over the years, Steve Eggleston at DK …

Kitty Hawk Cora

Kitty Hawk Cora

Cora Kitty Hawk Corp. Mountain View, California Kitty Hawk unveiled on March 12, 2018, that it had been flying a two-seat derivative of the Zee Aero Z-P2 in California and in New Zealand. The company also announced: Zephyr Airworks is the operator of Kitty Hawk in New Zealand. New Zealand is recognized for its safety-focused regulatory environment and a strong history of excellence in airspace management. Kitty Hawk established Zephyr Airworks in December 2016 “to be able to test and work with the New Zealand Government, New Zealand Maori/iwi, business partners and the community. We shipped our first air taxi to New Zealand in October 2017 and began testing shortly after that.” Zee.Aero was the name of our Cora team while we were in the development stage. Now that the Cora prototype is in the market, we wanted a name that reflected the spirit of Kitty Hawk’s mission of bringing everyday flight to everyone. Kitty Hawk also described the safety features of Cora: “Cora is a vehicle just like a car or an airplane. Anything that moves has some inherent risk. Cora has a number of safety features such as: Independent Rotors: Because our fans & propellers are electric, they can operate independently. An issue with one has no effect on the others. Triple Redundant Flight-Computer: Cora is equipped with three independent flight-computers that each calculate its location. If there’s an issue with one of them, Cora can still reliably navigate. A parachute that launches if Cora needs to land without its fans.” In 2017, the Kitty Hawk Cora program received $1 million from the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a Pentagon organization that focuses on implementing cutting-edge technology into the U.S. Military. For its initial flight testing, Cora was only permitted to test three times per week, and was limited to the airspace over Hollister Airport. Now, Cora is allowed to fly up to 5,000 ft, either flying itself or with non-paying passengers aboard. Information provided with the Cora announcement: Company Name: Kitty Hawk Corporation is a California-based company. Zephyr Airworks is the operator of Kitty Hawk in New Zealand. Headquarters: Mountain View, California Kitty Hawk CEO: Sebastian Thrun Zephyr Airworks CEO: Fred Reid Product Name: Cora (prototype) Type of Machine: Air taxi Power: All-electric Capacity: Designed for two passengers. Altitude: Operates between 500 ft to 3000 ft above the ground (150 m to 900 m). Max Altitude: 10,000 ft (3.04 km) Wingspan: 36 feet (11 m) Vertical take-off and landing: Cora is powered by 12 independent lift fans, which enable her to take off and land vertically like a helicopter. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway. Fixed-wing flight: On a single propeller Range: Initially about 62 miles (100 km) Flight Time (with 10-minute reserve): 19 minutes Speed: About 110 mph (180 kph) Passenger Cargo Capacity: 400 lbs (181 kg) Regulation: Cora has an experimental airworthiness certificate from both the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We are working with the CAA on further certification goals to bring an air taxi service to the commercial …

The eVTOL is in the Details

The eVTOL is in the Details The AHS International Transformative Vertical Flight meeting looks at the payoffs and challenges of electric vertical takeoff and landing. By Frank Colucci Vertiflite, March/April 2018   All 61 technical papers from the TVF conference are now available in the AHS Vertical Flight Library and can be purchased individually or as part of the proceedings CD-ROM. The conference and workshop plenary presentation videos and PDFs can also be downloaded for free at A packed house at January’s AHS International Transformative Vertical Flight Technical Meeting and Fifth Annual Workshop learned about bold visions for urban air taxis and the challenges of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL). Four days of presentations hosted by the AHS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter covered aeromechanics, propulsion, acoustics, infrastructure and certification advances aimed largely at airborne mass transit. The new rotorcraft suggested for moving people over clogged streets include multicopters, tiltrotors, tilt wings and ducted fans, nearly all designed around Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP). AHS International executive director and workshop program chair Mike Hirschberg observed, “Really, transformative flight is [largely] about DEP and the design freedom that it enables.” Big Picture Technical papers addressed analytical tools applicable to the new vehicles and their missions, and the aeromechanics of coaxial rotors, optimized tilt rotors, cycloidal rotors, and other configurations. With the full title of the conference being the “Aeromechanics Design for Transformative Vertical Flight Technical Meeting,” not all the technical papers dealt with eVTOL platforms. Byung-Young Min from Sikorsky presented information about propeller performance in the wake of the S-97 Raider. The integrated pusher propeller at the tail of the high-speed compound helicopter ingests both the main rotor wake and fuselage boundary layer. Wind tunnel tests showed the Boundary Layer Ingested (BLI) propeller increased body drag but enhanced propeller efficiency. The net benefit is about 10% more thrust — important for the agile armed scout helicopter. Other San Francisco technical papers included tools to optimize the length of shrouded rotor ducts and the relative performance of variable-pitch versus variable-speed propellers for quadcopter control. Distributed Electric Propulsion nevertheless plays heavily in the Uber Elevate ecosystem of urban air taxis, vertiports (or “SkyPorts” in Uber parlance) and supporting infrastructure that dominated the eVTOL discussion. Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden noted that urban centers will be home to six billion people in 20 years and told his AHS dinner audience, “The way people move in and around cities is not keeping up.” Aviation specialists working for the ground ride-sharing giant told the AHS audience how hundreds of thousands of flights a day by eVTOL aircraft will unload choked highways and make cities more productive. Their vision centers on battery-powered, four-passenger aircraft with multiple small propellers to transition from vertical flight to horizontal flight. Networked air taxis will follow sky corridors from one rooftop vertiport to another at altitudes less than 1,500 ft (450 m) and speeds of 150 mph (240 km/h) and greater. Human pilots eventually give way to autonomous flight controls, and another paying passenger will …

Back to Kitty Hawk

Back to Kitty Hawk: Exploring the Secrets of the Kitty Hawk Flyer By Kenneth I. Swartz Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2017 It’s a long way from the windy sand dunes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the San Francisco Bay, but the aviation adventure that the Wright brothers launched near Kitty Hawk in 1903 now continues with new electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft being developed by Silicon Valley startups. While several teams have presented at past AHS-led Transformative Vertical Flight Workshops, some are obsessed with secrecy, just as the Wright brothers were a century ago. But one such team lifted the veil and conducted public demonstrations of its prototype this summer. The Flyer in Oshkosh On the warm morning of July 28, aviation enthusiasts lined the shore of Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to witness the first flight of a prototype Kitty Hawk Flyer eVTOL aircraft at a public forum. The annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture fly-in convention is the world’s biggest aviation event and has long been a showcase for innovative new aircraft. This year’s extravaganza attracted nearly 600,000 people and 11,000 aircraft, including a dozen Kitty Hawk engineers and two prototype Flyers from the company’s workshops in Sunnyvale, California. “The Kitty Hawk Flyer is an electric aircraft that flies over water that you can learn to fly in less than an hour,” said spokeswoman Ellen Cohn as the Flyer was being prepared to fly. “This is our entry into selling electric aircraft and the beginning of a new wave of aviation innovation … and we are so excited to see what happens next.” Cohn said that Kitty Hawk will start selling a production version of the Flyer at the end of 2017 “that will look totally different than the prototype … and fly up to 15 ft [4.6 m] high and up to 25 mph [40 km/h] for 15 to 20 minutes.” “With each new version we release, the aircraft will fly a little longer, go a little faster and be sleeker. Our long-term vision is to see the aircraft evolving so everyone can have access to personal flight and limitless mobility,” said Cohn. At the waterfront, test pilot Todd Reichert slipped on a helmet and life vest as other Kitty Hawk engineers carried the Flyer to a floating dock to complete preflight and telemetry tests. Once EAA seaplane traffic had cleared the area, Reichert hopped on the Flyer, gripped the handlebars, activated the electronic controls and powered up the eight downward-facing electric propellers to lift the pontoon-equipped aircraft into the air. For the next three minutes, Reichert entranced the crowd as he piloted the Flyer back and forth across the lake, demonstrating stability and maneuverability in a series of hovers, banks, turns and climbs. The purr of the eight electric motors was barely audible from the shore and was drowned out by every light aircraft flying overhead. To a first-time observer, the prototype Flyer seemed quite at home flying above the water, and it was easy to …