Wisk Aero was founded in 2019 as a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk Corporation and is headquartered in Mountain View, California, USA. The goal of the company is to manufacture autonomous electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with zero emissions, for advanced air mobility (AAM) and air cargo. The company recognizes that self-flying cars will not be the first to market but expects to be the first autonomous eVTOL passenger aircraft to market. Zee Aero was founded in 2010. Kitty Hawk Corporation purchased Zee Aero aircraft and its technology and intellectual property rights in March 2018. In December 2019, Kitty Hawk Corporation became Wisk Aero. As of 2024, Wisk has over 500 employees.
Wisk is led by Gary Gysin, the former president and CEO of Liquid Robotics, which was acquired by The Boeing Company three years ago after partnering for two years on the development of advance maritime defense solutions. Kitty Hawk continues to develop eVTOL aircraft under the leadership of CEO Sebastian Thrun.
Wisk's first electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft is the Cora autonomous aircraft. The reason for forming a new company, is that Boeing can take advantage of Kitty Hawks' innovated eVTOL aircraft and Kitty Hawk can take advantage of Boeing's manufacturing and aerospace abilities.
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.
Then Cora was first revealed on Mar. 12, 2018, after nearly eight years of secretive eVTOL developments by Zee Aero (originally founded in March 2010) and was backed by Larry Page (the co-founder of Google) in 2017, the company was absorbed by Kitty Hawk, another eVTOL company backed by Page.
On March 12, 2018, Kitty Hawk announced that it had been flying a two-seat eVTOL aircraft named Cora in California and in New Zealand which was a derivative of the Zee Aero Z-P2. The company also announced:
Kitty Hawk established Zephyr Airworks in December 2016 "to be able to test and work with the New Zealand Government, New Zealand Maori people and Iwi, business partners and the community. We shipped our first air taxi to New Zealand in October 2017 and began testing shortly after that."
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.
For its initial flight testing, Cora was only permitted to test three times per week and was limited to the airspace over Hollister Airport. This is likely one of the reasons why Wisk has been making test flights in New Zealand, as they can fly the aircraft more often there. Now in the USA, Cora is allowed to fly up to 5,000 feet, either flying itself or with non-paying passengers aboard. It was announced that as of January 2020, Cora has logged over 1,000 flights.
Autonomous Cora (Generation 5) two passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft
Cora (Generation 5) is an autonomous two passenger eVTOL prototype aircraft. The aircraft smooth egg-type shaped fuselage and has a canopy over the cockpit. The company has made multiple prototype aircraft for testing purposes. The aircraft has flown many successful flights in the USA and New Zealand. It was confirmed in January 2020, that Wisk will only be making the Cora eVTOL as an autonomous aircraft and there will be no pilot.
The cruising speed of the aircraft is 110 mph (180 km/h) and has a maximum range of 62 miles (100 km). The cruising altitude is between 500 feet to 3,000 feet (150 m to 900 m) and has a maximum operating altitude of 10,000 feet (3.04 km). The flight time is 19 minutes with a 10 minute reserve. The maximum payload weight of the aircraft is 400 lb (181 kg).
The aircraft has 12 independent VTOL-only propellers powered by 12 electric motors are mounted equidistant booms, parallel to the fuselage and under its 36 ft (11 m) long wings. The low main wings have flaps and winglets. There is one three-bladed pusher propeller providing thrust for forward flight. There is one twin boom tail with an inverted U horizontal stabilizer, the horizontal stabilizer having four flaps. The aircraft has fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear.
Wisk Aero's CEO Gary Gysin speaks about urban car and air travel
According to an eVTOL.com article published on Jan. 20, 2020 and written by the award-winning journalist Elan Head, interviewed Wisk's CEO Gary Gysin who pointed out that Uber Elevate's white paper from 2016 cited (on page 39 of the PDF white paper), on trips less than 100 miles (161 km), over 70% of the trips had one person, with the average car trip holding 1.3 people. “A lot of times, people are on their own,” Gysin said, explaining that with a two-seat model, “you don’t have to wait to fill an aircraft." And paraphrasing Gysin, many people are on their own when traveling to work.
Wisk knows that advanced air mobility (AAM) is not just about flying people to and from work. A few examples of the various applications of urban and rural flight include going shopping, going to doctor's appointments, traveling to restaurants, visiting friends or family, traveling to a hobby club, traveling to a gym, going to and from airports or performing any other activity that takes place in an urban or rural environment.
Future eVTOL air taxi models and NASA
While Cora is a two passenger eVTOL aircraft, the company does have plans for making a larger passenger eVTOL aircraft but there is nothing Wisk can reveal right now (as of January 2020), about any future aircraft. Please read the Kitty Hawk Heaviside, Kitty Hawk Flyer, and the Flyer prototype pages if interested in Kitty Hawk's aircraft.
In November 2020, Wisk announced they are in a partnering with NASA's Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign strategy to develop key guidelines for advanced air mobility operations, including autonomous flight and contingency management, collision avoidance and flight path management, certification and standards development and more. Wisk Aero will also be conducting demonstration flights with NASA.
Boeing merger with Aurora Flight Sciences
In March 2021, it was reported that Boeing is merging Aurora Flight Sciences with Wisk, to combine the knowledge and experience both companies have gained for the betterment of the company. Wisk also announced they are planning to start with a self-flying aircraft going to the market first, instead of what most other eVTOL companies are doing which is offering piloted aircraft first to the market and then later, transitioning to self-flying aircraft.
First public demonstration flight of a fully autonomous eVTOL fixed-wing air taxi
During July 24-30, 2023 at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (EAA = Experimental Aircraft Association) at the Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA, Wisk Aero for the first time in its history, successfully autonomously flew the Cora (Generation 5) in a public demonstration flight. The company stated this flight was the world’s first public demonstration flight of a fully autonomous eVTOL fixed-wing air taxi.
First public flight of an autonomous eVTOL fixed-wing aircraft in Los Angeles County
On October 21, 2023, Wisk Aero became the first company to make a public flight with their Cora (Generation 5) autonomous two passenger eVTOL prototype air taxi in Los Angeles Country. The flight took place at the Long Beach airport's Festival of Flight which marked the 100th Anniversary of the airport.
Cruising altitude: Operates between 500 ft to 3,000 ft (150 m to 900 m)
Maximum altitude: 10,000 ft (3.04 km)
Range: 62 miles (100 km)
Flight time: 19 minutes with a 10 minute reserve
Payload: 400 lb (181 kg)
Propellers: 12 VTOL-only propellers and 1 pusher propeller
Power source: Electric power source
Main wing: 1 low main wing with 2 flaps and winglets on each wing, 36 feet (11 m)
Tail: 1 twin boom tail with an inverted U horizontal stabilizer with 4 flaps
Landing gear: Fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear
Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) allows multiple propellers for VTOL flight, if several of the propellers stop working for any reason, the aircraft can still land safely. Triple Redundant Flight-Computer, equipped with three independent flight-computers that each calculate its location. If there’s an issue with one of them, the aircraft can still reliably navigate. There is no single point of failure. The aircraft also has a parachute if all else fails.
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