Kitty Hawk, a start-up that wanted to offer ‘democratically priced’ taxi flights, has ceased to exist. Despite support from Google founder Larry Page, the company failed to develop a secure, remote-controlled device.
Kitty Hawk originated from Zee.aero, a company that was working on an electric mini plane that could take off horizontally. This would allow the aircraft to depart from many more places. By operating the aircraft remotely, the pilot’s seat would also be available for a passenger. In addition, a price tag of $1 per mile was targeted, which would make the flying taxi cheaper than a regular taxi ride.
The idea came from people from the tech world. The company was founded by Sebastian Thrun, who previously worked at Google on a self-driving car project. Google billionaire Larry Page joined the project, spending more than $100 million.
The new name Kitty Hawk was also typical of their high ambitions: the Kitty Hawk was the name of the place where the Wright brothers carried out the first successful flight with a powered aircraft in 1903.
But the development of a passenger plane without a pilot turns out to be more challenging than expected. There are still crashes in tests, including with Kitty Hawk’s competitors.
The exact reason for the company’s closure has not been disclosed. In a brief announcement on Twitter, Kitty Hawk reports that it is still being looked at how to proceed.
In recent years, not only tech investors have seen bread in the model: aircraft mastodon Boeing has also pumped about 450 million dollars into Wisk, a collaboration with Kitty Hawk, in recent years. This week, Boeing gave a presentation on how such small aircraft have a right to exist alongside commercial flights. Wisk could continue to exist even after Kitty Hawk has closed, Boeing says.
After the withdrawal of Page and co. the dream of a flying taxi is not yet completely dead. Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation, the German Lilium and the Brazilian Eve continue to dream of such an aircraft. But the confident message on the website of the now-defunct Kitty Hawk doesn’t bode well. “If anyone can do it, it’s us,” it still reads.