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Kitty Hawk Flyer (defunct prototype)

 

Flyer (Defunct Prototype)
Kitty Hawk Corporation 
Palo Alto, California, USA
www.kittyhawk.aero

Founded in 2010, Kitty Hawk Corporation is funded by Larry Page, one of Google's co-founders. The lead engineers on the Kitty Hawk Flyer are Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert — who both worked on the AeroVelo Atlas team that won the AHS International Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition in June 2013.

Kitty Hawk unveiled the prototype for their electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) Flyer for recreational flying with a video on YouTube on Apr. 24, 2017 (and as of November 2020, the video has over 3.1 million views). From their website at the time: "The Kitty Hawk Flyer is a new, all-electric aircraft. We've designed our first version specifically to fly over water. You don't need a pilot’s license and you’ll learn to fly it in minutes. We publicly revealed the working prototype in April 2017. The official Flyer will be available by the end of the year." (The production Flyer was actually unveiled in May 2018.) 

The aircraft is was designed under the Ultralight category of the Federal Aviation Administration (USA), the constraints the engineers need to follow are making an aircraft which is for one person, the pilot is not required to have a pilot's license, the aircraft is limited to recreational and sports use and the weight of the aircraft is 253 lb (114 kg) or less. These constraints are important to the engineers making this aircraft because it is an eVTOL aircraft and batteries are heavy. As the weight of the aircraft increases, its range will decrease. An interesting point is that many of the engineers were flying this aircraft as well, providing them with useful information while designing the aircraft.

The propellers were under the webbing on the airframe providing additional safety for any pilot, if the pilot fell off the seat, the webbing would protect the pilot from the turning propellers. With two large pontoons, the aircraft can land safely on land or on water. The aircraft uses a central flight computer to control each propeller independently makes the aircraft very easy to fly. In addition, when adding GPS, the pilot can take their hands off the controls and the aircraft will safely sit in the air.  

The beauty of being totally electric is … the amount of computational power we can put inside there,” he continued. “The computer has almost the same sensors you find in your cell phone, including accelerometers and gyros.” To maintain attitude, the sensors “can tell the instant the plane starts to tilt and it speeds up those rotors before I can even feel it move. If I had four levers and I was trying to control them manually I couldn’t move them fast enough.”

-Kitty Hawk's Dr. Todd Reichert

Kitty Hawk became the parent company of Zee Aero in 2016, which resulted in the Kitty Hawk Cora product line in 2018. In 2019, Kitty Hawk announced their development of the Heaviside.

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: eVTOL aircraft capable of water landings 
  • Piloting/Capacity: 1 pilot 
  • Pilot controls: 2 handle bars 
  • Cruise speed: 20–30 mph (32–48 km/h)
  • Cruise altitude: 10–20 feet [3-6 m]
  • Empty weight: Under 250 lb (113 kg) - (Not including the pontoons: 230 lb [104 kg]
  • Propellers: 8
  • Electric Motors: 8
  • Power source: Batteries 
  • Cockpit: Open cockpit
  • Fuselage: A airframe with webbing on the frame. 
  • Landing gear:  Two large pontoons
  • Safety Features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft. With its two pontoons, the aircraft can safely on the land or on water. The propellers were under the webbing on the airframe which also provided safety to the pilot, in case the pilot fell off the seat, he/she would fall onto the frame and not into the propellers. The aircraft also has an auto-land capability for safety.

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