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.
First Manned Flight of Zee Aero Z-P2 in Hollister, California. evtol.news/aircraft/zee-aero/
Z-P2 Zee Aero (now the Cora product line of Kitty Hawk) Mountain View, California, USA www.zee.aero 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 to 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: Cora.aero/milestones, 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, Flight Testing, 1 Passenger, Electric/Batteries, Autonomous, VFS Member
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, http://www.top-news.top/news-12509297.html, Nov. 9, 2016 Update/corrections https://cora.aero/milestones, March 12, 2018 Meet Cora, Vertiflite, April 19, 2018 Zee Aero Z-P2 entry, Updated March 19, 2018
First Flight of the Zee Aero Z-P2 in Hollister, California. evtol.news/aircraft/zee-aero/
The earliest electric VTOL aircraft were initially flown by the inventors themselves. Here is a list of the earliest known successful manned eVTOL liftoffs and their pilots. First Flights of eVTOL Aircraft Aug. 4, 2011 Pascal Chretien Solution F Helicopter Venelles, France n/a Oct. 5, 2011 Marcus Leng SkyKar (Opener BlackFly) Rebel Warkworth, Canada C-IJQV Oct. 21, 2011 Thomas Senkel Volocopter VC1 Karlsruhe, Germany n/a March 19, 2018 Marcus Leng Opener BlackFly V2 Palo Alto, California, USA C-IKLT or C-IKLY Feb. 17, 2016 Philippe Antoine Aquinea Volta Castelnaudary, France F-WALG March 30, 2016 Alex Zosel Volocopter VC200 Karlsruhe, Germany D-MYVC Sept. 13, 2016 Ric Webb Tier 1 Electric Robinson R44 Los Alamitos, California, USA N3115T Early 2017 unknown Joby S4 Santa Cruz, California, USA N541JA 2017 Dr. Todd Reichert Kitty Hawk Flyer (prototype) unk, California, USA n/a Aug. 1, 2017 Bill Shoemaker Zee Aero Z-P2 Hollister, California, USA N102XZ Sept. 16, 2017 Boyan Zhelev Astro PassengerDrone (AA360) near Sofia, Bulgaria n/a Early 2018 unknown Kitty Hawk Flyer (production) unk, California, USA n/a Feb. 6, 2018 (1st public manned flight) unknown EHang 184 Guangzhou City, China n/a April 30, 2018 John Graber Workhorse SureFly Cincinnati, Ohio, USA N834LW 2018 unknown EHang 216 Guangzhou City, China n/a May 2018 Kyle Clark Beta Technologies Ava XC Plattsburgh, NY, USA N802UT Nov. 1, 2018 Matt Chasen LIFT Aircraft Hexa Austin, Texas, USA? n/a red text indicates unknown or unconfirmed data Additional flights with pilots/passengers (not first flights) 2018 6 more pilots Opener BlackFly V2 Palo Alto, California, USA C-IKLT or C-IKLY Dec. 3, 2017 Brian Krzanich (Intel) Volocopter VC200 near Munich, Germany D-MYVC Late 2018 Justin Paines Joby S4 unk, California, USA N541JA 2017-2018 additional pilots Kitty Hawk Flyer (prototype) San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA n/a 2018-present Many Kitty Hawk Flyer (production) various n/a 2016-present Many EHang 184 various n/a 2018-present Many EHang 216 various n/a
In a year-end report, Kitty Hawk Corporation provided an update on the two-seat Cora eVTOL aircraft first unveiled in March 2018, which is now undergoing autonomous flight-testing in California and New Zealand. Founded in March 2010 as Zee.aero by Stanford professor Ilan Kroo, the company developed proof of concept (POC) eVTOL aircraft in secret for seven years before publically unveiling the Flyer prototype in 2017 and the 12-propeller fixed-wing Cora air taxi a year later. During 2018, the Cora fleet surpassed 700 unmanned flights, new aircraft were added to the flight test fleet and a ballistic parachute system tested for the first time. Cora is designed to operate at altitudes between 500 ft to 3000 ft above ground, cruise at about 100 mph 180 km/h and have an initial range of 62 miles or about 100 km. There are now four Cora registered with the FAA (as the Kitty Hawk Mule SPA), including serial no. 005 (N305XZ) registered in September 2018 and serial no. 006 (N306XZ) registered in late November 2018 as a Mule SPA-Alpha model. Features of the “Alpha” version have not been revealed. In December 2016, Kitty Hawk established Zephyr Airworks to development Cora and the air taxi concept in New Zealand. The first aircraft (serial 002, ZK-UZA, ex-N302XZ) was shipped to New Zealand and began testing soon afterwards at a private airport near Christchurch on the South Island. Zephyr imported a second Cora eVTOL (serial 004, ZK-UZB) in September 2018, completed a hangar in the summer, and signed an agreement with Air New Zealand to explore the development and design of an electric, autonomous air taxi service, using Cora. The ultralight Kitty Hawk Flyer does not require an FAA N-number if it has an empty weight of less than 254 pounds. However, Flyer serial no. 26003 was allocated the registration N333FL in November, possibly under an experimental airworthiness certificate. Kitty Hawk is believed to be secretly developing other electric aircraft, such as the Heaviside N220HV (serial 001) which was first registered as a fixed-wing aircraft in January 2018. The first Heaviside was cancelled from the FAA civil aircraft register in September 2018 but two new Heaviside 2 models were registered in November as N220HV (serial no. H2-001) and N222HV (serial H2-002). Some analysts are speculating that the Heaviside may be the unknown aircraft that was spotted at Palmdale, California’s US Air Force Plant 42 Airport in October 2018. More recently, Kitty Hawk reserved 50 FAA registrations for future electric-powered aircraft, including five registrations ending in “XZ” (presumably for new Cora aircraft, which likely originally stood for “experimental Zee” aircraft) and 45 registrations ending “FL” (presumably for new “Flyer” ultralights), now that the ultralight Flyer is operational. In 2019, Kitty Hawk plans to open a software development center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Opener BlackFly Debuts at Oshkosh By Kenneth I. Swartz Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2018 On July 12, Opener shocked the world by announcing that its BlackFly was the first US- and Canadian-qualified fixed-wing ultralight eVTOL. The company showed stunning video and off-the-charts performance. Here’s the inside story. On Oct. 5, 2011, Canadian engineer and entrepreneur Marcus Leng flew an eight-rotor tandem-wing electric aircraft from the front yard of his house and became convinced that electric vertical flight had a great future. This aircraft — initially dubbed the “SkyKar Rebel” — was apparently the world’s first fixed-wing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) flight (see www.evtol.news/evtol-timeline). That was the beginning of Opener’s stealth development of the BlackFly personal air vehicle, which wasn’t revealed until this summer. With great fanfare on July 12, Opener unveiled its website and a high-quality video showing piloted and unpiloted BlackFly eVTOL aircraft flying low over the spectacular mountain scenery, taking off and landing in meadows, hovering above lakes and parked on the seashore of northern California. Ten days later, Opener was ready to meet the aviation public in the EAA Innovation Showcase at Oshkosh where three of the four generations of the BlackFly eVTOL aircraft were on display: the Rebel, v2 and v3 (detailed characteristics of each, as well as the v1, are available on eVTOL.news). That’s where VFS met Opener founder and CEO Marcus Leng, as well as Opener director and technical advisor Alan Eustace, to learn more about the company and BlackFly. Early Beginnings Marcus Leng got his recreational pilot’s license when he was 18 in 1978 and his motor vehicle license a year later, which “reflected my priorities at the time.” After graduating with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Toronto in 1983, Leng worked in the Ontario aerospace industry and with multinational companies for several years. Then he changed career direction in 1986 and founded a custom urethane foam manufacturing, which became one of the largest companies of its kind in North America before he sold it in 1996 and “retired” at the age of 36. Leng was working on a different aviation project in the summer of 2009, “when it became apparent that there was going to be a convergence of three technologies that would make it possible for practical electric flight. These were the power density of batteries, the energy density of motors, and the control associated with IMUs [inertial measurement units] used for … DIY drones.” “You could see a convergence was going to take place, but the technology wasn’t there yet,” said Leng. The insight led Leng to design and build a proof-of-concept eVTOL aircraft, which he called the SkyKar Rebel, at his rural home in Warkworth, Ontario, about 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Toronto. “The problem was that there was no one working in the space, so everything had to be done on first principles, with a lot of pure physics and engineering,” said Leng. The electric aircraft was built with off-the-shelf components, “including Styrofoam from …
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