The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Privately-owned Kitty Hawk has been working on the Cora eVTOL design since December 2011. On June 25, 2019, the company announced a strategic partnership with Boeing NeXt around the Cora program. On December 2, 2019, this situation became clearer when Boeing and Kitty Hawk announced the formation of a new joint venture called Wisk to solidify their partnership. It appears that Boeing is the majority shareholder in the new company, but neither party will confirm details the ownership structure. It will focus entirely on developing the two-seat Cora, which is expected to fly on routes up to around 60 miles and at speeds of approximately 112 mph. 

To date, Kitty Hawk has published very few details about the aircraft's projected performance and specifications. After starting test flights in 2017, as off May 7, 2020, it has conducted more than 1,200 test flights with four prototypes, mainly in New Zealand where Wisk has a subsidiary company. No timeline for type certification has been published. Following some disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Wisk hoped to resume test flights by the end of May. 

On February 4, 2020, the New Zealand government and Wisk signed a memorandum of understanding for Cora to conduct autonomous passenger-carrying trial flights in the Canterbury region. Officials have not yet said when the first passenger-carrying flights will be made or how passengers will be chosen. However, it is contingent on the Cora completing type certification by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.

Wisk New Zealand (formerly Zephyr Airworks) is working with the country’s Ngai Tahu Maori tribe to support science and technology education initiatives and as part of a wider community engagement process. The company also is partnered with flag-carrier Air New Zealand.

In October 2019, the New Zealand government announced an Airspace Integration Trial to demonstrate how unmanned aircraft can be safely operated in unmanned airspace and it has now selected Wisk as the first industry partner for this program. The program is being managed by the country’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment in conjunction with the CAA and the Ministry of Transport.

On June 10, 2020, Wisk said it had resumed flight testing in New Zealand and California following disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. At that point, four prototype aircraft had logged a total of just over 1,300 flights. In the next phase of flight testing, the company's engineering team will focus on issues such as incorporating lightning strike protection.

FAA officials have had discussions with their counterparts at the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand to agree procedures that will allow them to observe certification work on the Cora aircraft and to share data. 

Timeline

partnership

There are no confirmed details as to how much money Boeing may have invested in to the new Wisk joint venture, which will now progress the development of the Cora eVTOL aircraft with Kitty Hawk. However, it seems clear that Boeing is the majority owner of the new company.

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

At face value, Kitty Hawk's decision in June 2019 to launch a strategic partnership with Boeing NeXt seemed surprising. Privately-owned Kitty Hawk appeared to be well-funded by its main backers Ilan Kroo, Sebastian Thrun and Google founder Larry Page. Development work appears to have been proceeding well, although no clear timeline for taking the aircraft to market has been declared. 

The formation of the new Wisk joint venture makes it clear that Cora is now a priority project for Boeing. It seems a fair assumption that Boeing has made some fresh investment in the venture, although neither party would confirm this to FutureFlight

One explanation for Boeing NeXt's interest in Cora might be the apparent difficulties its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences may be having with its Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) eVTOL development. The prototype aircraft crashed on its fifth test flight on June 2, 2019. In November, Aurora indicated that it will resume PAV flight testing early in 2020. It could be that Boeing NeXt wants to hedge its bets by pursuing an alternative eVTOL program. Superficially, the two aircraft would appear to have fairly similar characteristics in terms of their operational profiles. That said, Aurora remains one of six partners selected by Uber as prospective aircraft providers for its planned Uber Air ride-share program. 

Meanwhile, in October, Boeing announced an alliance with sports car maker Porsche to work together on plans for a luxury eVTOL design. Clearly, this sector is a priority for the U.S. aerospace group.

The support of the New Zealand government for planned passenger-carrying flight trials also is a significant breakthrough.

Cora Models

Cora Specifications

Optionally-piloted vtol Lift + Cruise

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    2
  • Range
    62 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    112 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    multi rotor
  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    3,000 ft
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    n/a
  • Payload Weight
    n/a

Dimensions

  • Length
    n/a
  • Width
    n/a
  • Height
    n/a
  • Wingspan
    36 ft

Privately-owned Kitty Hawk started flight testing a proof-of-concept version of the Cora in December 2011. By June 2020, three prototypes had logged more than 1,300 hours. In October 2017, the U.S.-based group established a facility in New Zealand in partnership with local company Zephyr Airworks and Air New Zealand.  This became the hub for Cora development work.

Key Personnel

Gary Gysin
Gary Gysin

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)