The competition between Kitty Hawk, Uber, and Lilium About VTOL
Kitty Hawk, the electric flight startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, unveiled its third aircraft on Thursday. Heaviside, which is abbreviated to HVSD, is roughly 100 times quieter than a helicopter, and it can travel the 55 miles from San Jose to San Francisco in about 15 minutes, the company says.
TechCrunch, which got an early look, describes the aircraft as about one-third of the size of a Cessna airplane. It has a range of “about 100 miles,” the publication states, though Kitty Hawk is mum on technical specs around the aircraft’s battery and powertrain. All we really know is that the orange-and-black vehicle has eight rotors to help power its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) abilities.
The lack of noise while in flight is another thing Kitty Hawk is highlighting about its new aircraft. In a video posted on its site, Kitty Hawk notes that a helicopter hovering at 1,500 feet emits about 80 dBA, while Heaviside only puts out 38 dBA. The idea is that rather than power your urban air taxi service with noisy helicopters (which Uber is attempting to do with its recently launched Manhattan-to-JFK Airport service), why not use Kitty Hawk’s whisper-quiet electric planes instead?
It’s not really a fair question because Kitty Hawk hasn’t said anything about its production plans. The company recently announced that it’s partnering with Boeing to develop its semi-autonomous flying taxis. Last year, it unveiled its first two aircraft, the single-seater Flyer and the two-seater Cora. It also said it would be teaming up with Air New Zealand to eventually launch a flying taxi service in that country.
If true, a 100-mile range would be an incredible breakthrough for electric flight. Flying requires a ton of energy, and, presently, the weight of batteries presents complications for liftoff. The technology that allows Tesla to squeeze 300 miles of range out of a Model 3 or for Chevy to get 200 miles out of the Bolt isn’t enough to power more than a two-seater aircraft with a flight range limited to only a few miles.
Kitty Hawk’s response to this challenge is to make its aircraft very small. The Flyer can carry one person; Cora can carry two. The Heaviside can only fit one pilot, which raises questions about the entire lineup’s viability as passenger aircraft.
Kitty Hawk has some high-profile competitors in the nascent flying taxi space. Most notably, Uber plans to start test flights of its own Uber Air service in 2020, with a commercial launch planned for 2023. The ride-sharing company announced that it’s working with five aerospace companies to build aircraft for the service, including one company that was purchased by Boeing back in 2017. A separate startup, Lilium, completed a test flight of its own five-seater aircraft earlier this year.
Cruise speed 100-120Km/H
Aircraft length 2100MM
Wing width 3300MM
Maximum takeoff weight 40KG
Flight altitude Maximum
Payload Maximum 10KG
Wind resistance Grade
Endurance(20.3kg take-off weight) 4-8 hours
Power System 60cc-100cc
Body material Full