Canadian engineer’s one-man drone-like “Flyer” nears commercial release
The Kitty Hawk Flyer, a personal aircraft designed by Todd Reichert, allows 20 minutes of VTOL flight time at up to 20 mph.
California start-up Kitty Hawk officially unveiled its single passenger drone-like vehicle simply called Flyer. Backed by Google co-founder, Larry Page, the company has been working on Flyer for approximately a year but has now opened a training facility so potential buyers can take a spin.
Flyer was developed by Todd Reichert, Kitty Hawk’s Director of Engineering, the same Canadian engineering talent behind world record-setting and human-powered vehicles like the AeroVelo Snowbird ornithopter, Atlas helicopter and Eta speed bike. Drawing on his experience in making ultralight and seemingly impossible aircraft, the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies alumnus has now turned his design expertise to the commercial market.
Reminiscent of an air-borne ATV or Ski-Doo, Flyer is billed by the company as a recreational vehicle suitable for over-water flights. Driven by 10 electric motors and a lithium polymer battery, the VTOL vehicle presently flys for up to 12-20 minutes at 20 mph and up to 10 feet off the water. With a 8-foot by 13-foot “wingspan”, the personal aircraft’s water-proof composite shell incorporates pontoons for landing and take off. While the pilot directs the vehicle’s flight path via a throttle and joystick, software algorithms assist to keep Flyer stable during operation.
In addition, the one-person drone doesn’t require a pilot’s license to fly (in the U.S.), similar to motorized ultra-lights and other recreational aircraft under 254 pounds. The Flyer comes in just under the FCC’s weight cap at 250 pounds. (In Canada, such aircraft require an Ultralight Pilot Permit or better to operate). Although the company has not made Flyer’s price tag public, it is taking pre-orders on it’s website.