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 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.
- Patents: Zee Aero
- Article: AHS International Leads Transformative Vertical Flight Initiative, eVTOL News, November 1, 2014
- Article: Lift Where You Need It, Vertiflite, November/December 2016
- Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, January/February 2017
- Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, March/April 2017
- Article: Zee Z-P1 Spotted Again, eVTOL News, May 2, 2017
- Video: Making Flying Cars a Reality, CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS, December 24, 2017
- Website: Cora.aero/milestones, March 12, 2018