The Kitty Hawk Flyer is one of the first aircraft from Larry Page-backed Kitty Hawk, a startup taking aim at creating real, usable flying cars. The company, which is also led by CEO and former Google self-driving car project originator Sebastian Thrun, wants to begin selling the Flyer you see in the video above by the end of the year, so this isn’t a concept depicting a far-flung future.
Kitty Hawk ran this test pilot at a lake near San Francisco, the New York Times reports, and as you can see it resembles more a motorcycle than a car per se, with an open-air design and pontoons to facilitate its water landing. NYT says the single-rider vehicle boasts eight rotors and was loud, like the overpowered speedboats you sometimes hear tearing across scenic lakes like this one, but the electric-powered vehicle likely isn’t anywhere near as damaging to the environment.
It also should offer faster trips, and it falls into a category of ultralight aircraft that doesn’t require a pilot’s license under current FAA regulations – though that category requires that it be used only in areas that are sparsely populated. Kitty Hawk intends to sell these later this year, as mentioned, with a price yet to be determined. The final version will be quieter, and will likely look quite a bit different, though the basic idea will remain the same.
While you can’t yet order the Flyer, you can pay a one-time fee of $100 to become “Flyer Discovery Member,” which will provide you will access to Kitty Hawk stuff in advance of release, including a flight simulator and demonstrations, and behind the scenes videos. You’ll also get “priority placement” in the pre-order line, when it does open, and a $2,000 discount off the selling price (which suggests it’ll be at least in the six-figure range).
The first vehicle is designed for hobbyists and recreational use, but the company still has its sights set on making flying cars a practical reality for broader use, including as a means to alleviate urban traffic congestion. Thrun, along with Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert, two University of Toronto aerospace engineers who joined after winning a competition for designing human-powered helicopters and super-speed bicycles, hope this will excite those who are following the space and want to get in on the ground floor.