An eVTOL startup backed by Google cofounder Larry Page just laid off around 70 workers to focus on a new single-person aircraft

Kitty Hawk's Project Heaviside eVTOL.Kitty Hawk
  • Aerial startup Kitty Hawk is going all-in on its newest aircraft, a single-pilot electric vertical take-off and land aircraft Heaviside with the goal of liberating the world from traffic.
  • Shifting to Heaviside won't come without its downsides, as initially reported by Tech Crunch, with Kitty Hawk laying off around 70 employees.
  • Kitty Hawk was founded in 2010 with backing from Google cofounder Larry Page.

Aerial startup Kitty Hawk is going all-in on its newest aircraft, a single-pilot electric vertical take-off and land aircraft that aims to help the company achieve its lofty goal of liberating the world from traffic.

Kitty Hawk was founded in 2010 with backing from Google cofounder Larry Page, whose net worth is estimated at nearly $65 billion, according to Forbes and its well-known endeavor was Flyer, a 10-propeller eVTOL. Though referred to as a flying car by some, Flyer was basically known as a drone that could be flown by someone riding on top of it.

Kitty Hawk's Flyer eVTOL.Kitty Hawk
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While a success in that the aircraft could fly as a "human drone," its flights were limited to around 10 feet above water at 20 miles per hour. Only around 111 aircraft were built in the five-year run of the program and around 75 people trained to fly on it, according to the company.

But now, the new sole focus will be Project Heaviside, according to a company blog post, an eVTOL that can fly above and between cities. Much like Flyer, a staple of the program is to get non-pilots into these aircraft to open up eVTOLs accessibility and expand urban air mobility to the masses.

Kitty Hawk's Project Heaviside eVTOL.Kitty Hawk
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Kitty Hawk started the project in secret, according to Tech Crunch, and little remains known about the project today except that it can fly over cities instead of merely over water. And unlike startups such as Joby Aviation, Archer, and Jaunt, Kitty Hawk is creating the aircraft to be flown for personal use, with the option to fly manually or autonomously.

Much like Flyer, Heaviside will be a single-pilot aircraft. Helping it achieve the ambitious goal of eliminating traffic will be eight motors that enable it to take off and land vertically while also allowing for traditional forward flight. Kitty Hawk claims that the aircraft can fly around 100 miles on a single charge, roughly the distance between New York City and Philadelphia or Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. Heaviside is slated to fly at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour and its creators say it can fly from San Francisco to San Jose, a distance of around 50 miles, in 15 minutes. Smaller than most general aviation aircraft, according to Tech Crunch, operators won't even need an airport or vertipad to land one, just a small area of open space.Advertisement

During a media demonstration, Kitty Hawk flew Heaviside at an altitude of around 600 feet, as reported by Tech Crunch, and promotional materials for the eVTOL show it at heights of 1,500 feet. Heaviside is also slated to be quieter than traditional helicopters at almost half the number of decibels when flying overhead.

Shifting to Heaviside won't come without its downsides, as initially reported by Tech Crunch, with Kitty Hawk laying off most of its Flyer team. Around 70 employees will depart from the company, with some transitioning to the Heaviside team, the company confirmed to Business Insider in an email.

Departing employees will get 20 weeks of pay with additional weeks tacked on depending on how long a person was at the company. They will also receive health insurance until 2021, keep their laptops, receive their bonuses, and be offered placement services.Advertisement

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