Combine a drone with a car and you get the Flyer, a single seat 250-pound flying vehicle imagined by Larry Page, co-founder of Google, and Sebastian Thrun, a leader in the world of self-driving cars.
At the beginning of June, Kitty Hawk announced to the tech world that their Flyer was ready to be flown and invited a few lucky reporters and social influencers to test it out. Casey Neistat, a YouTuber with over 9.6 million followers, made a video about the whole experience. After a 2 hour training that ranged from being in a Flyer simulator to learn how to virtually use the Flyer or practicing safety evacuation in a ball pit, Neistat was ready to take off.
Rachel Crane, a CNN correspondent, was the first reporter ever to try the Flyer. She took off after going through the same training. She commented on her flight experience: “The joystick is so intuitive, but it’s not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat in.”
The training facility for Kitty Hawk, situated in a secret location a bit outside of Las Vegas, teased the world last year when it released the first images of the Flyer. Flights are now available for business partners and selected social influencers.
The Flyer has ten moving parts: ten electric motors and two control sticks. If for any reasons the person in the seat let go of the control sticks, the Flyer will remain where it is. The Flyer batteries only last for about 20 minutes, so the time in the air is limited. Experimented flyers can go up to 20 miles per hour (approximately 32.19 km/h), but Neistat and Crane had to remain under 6 miles per hour (approximately 9.6 km/h).
Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Kitty Hawk explained to Crane the motivation behind the innovation: “We want to see a future where traffic is a matter of the past.”
Compared to other flying cars prototypes the true innovation in the Flyer might be the simplicity of learning how to use it. Todd Reichert, lead engineer at Kitty Hawk said in Neistat’s YouTube video that “the goal is to make flying easy, something you can do in a couple of hours.” He thinks the Flyer is “transformational in terms of flying” as it allows for a citizen the possibility of flying without a specific license or an arduous and long training process.
Hopes for the future
As of today, the Flyer is only a prototype, as Thrun explained : “This a recreational vehicle, it’s meant for recreational flight, but in the far distant future I can see that we take something similar to this and fly into New York Manhattan.”
The one aspect that might jeopardize these intentions is the societal acceptance of flying a car. As Thrun told CNN, “that’s why we opened a training center in Las Vegas.” Essentially, he wants people to be comfortable with using the Flyer and perhaps seeing it become a part of their lives.
Crédits photo: YouTube Casey Neistat