The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Heaviside now appears to be the main focus of Kitty Hawk's efforts to develop an eVTOL personal air vehicle, after it stopped work on another single-seat model called the Flyer. The California-based company has consistently refused to provide any information about the development timeline for the all-electric aircraft. In June 2020, it laid off 70 staff as part of the reorganization to focus entirely on the Heaviside project.

Kitty Hawk claims that Heaviside will be "100 times quieter" than existing helicopters. It said that in test flights it has demonstrated sound levels of 35 dBA at 1,500 feet and claimed that this will mean almost no noise will be heard from the aircraft within 30 seconds of takeoff. The company says that flight testing of what appears to be a technology demonstrator has achieved a range of 100 miles and speeds of up to 180 mph (while maintaining one-quarter of the charge in its batteries for safety reserves). One of its development aircraft crashed on October 17, 2019, in an accident that investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concluded was caused by software timing errors compromising flight controls.

Kitty Hawk is also a joint venture partner with Boeing in Wisk, which is developing the Cora eVTOL aircraft for planned air taxi operations.

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

Since Kitty Hawk spun off its Cora eVTOL aircraft into the new Wisk joint venture with Boeing, it has been unclear what will become of its Heaviside personal air vehicle. The company, which is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, has already stopped work on another model called the Flyer and laid off around 70 staff in June 2020.

Boeing's September 2020 announcement that it is closing its Boeing NeXt advanced technology division raised further doubts about Wisk's future, although the company insists the Cora program will continue. Kitty Hawk has made no public statements about its long term plans beyond releasing some video of Heaviside test flights conducted in 2019.

Heaviside Models

Heaviside Specifications

Optionally-piloted vtol Tiltrotor

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    1
  • Range
    100 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    180 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    propeller
  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    5,000 ft
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    826 lb
  • Payload Weight
    n/a

Dimensions

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

The Heaviside tiltrotor aircraft has eight electric motors, powering eight propellers. Six of the tilting propellers are located on the rear edge of the main wing, with two more on a forward canard.

During flight testing, it has demonstrated range of 100 miles and speeds of up to 180 mph, with one quarter of available electric charge remaining in its batteries for safety reserves. 

The improbably-branded aircraft is reportedly named after 19th century British electrical engineer Oliver Heaviside, who pioneered circuit analysis.

Key Personnel

Sebastian Thrun
Sebastian Thrun

Founder

Michael Huerta