The flying car backed by Google's cofounder just got a big update, and people can pilot it with less than an hour's training
- Kitty Hawk, the mysterious flying-car startup funded by the Google cofounder Larry Page, unwrapped its updated vehicle on Wednesday.
- The Flyer is now open for test flights for prospective customers, and the CNN reporter Rachel Crane was the first journalist allowed to pilot the vehicle.
- Kitty Hawk promises to get people in the air in less than an hour because of the Flyer's simple control system, which comprises just two joysticks.
- The startup's CEO said that securing public acceptance for the Flyer is its biggest priority and that he hopes to learn a lot from the test flights.
Kitty Hawk, the mysterious flying-car startup funded by the Google cofounder Larry Page, unwrapped a huge update on Wednesday — and it's promising to get people in the air in under an hour.
Kitty Hawk revealed its first vehicle last year. Since then, the Flyer has received an update, and it's now open for test flights for people interested in placing preorders.
Kitty Hawk published a 37-second video unveiling the updated Flyer and allowed the CNN reporter Rachel Crane to become the first journalist to pilot the vehicle.
For safety reasons, the Flyer is being tested exclusively over water at a facility in Las Vegas. After just an hour's training, Crane was able to fly the machine at a speed of 9.6 km/h and a height of 3 metres above the water.
Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun, who helped create Google's self-driving-car project, hopes the vehicles will one day be able to fly at up to 160 km/h over populated areas.
"It's as easy to use as playing 'Minecraft,'" he said.
The commercial vehicle is powered by a lithium-polymer battery, which can be used for about 20 minutes before it needs recharging. The Flyer has 10 motors and just two control sticks, which Crane said were easy to master.
"The joystick is so intuitive, but it's not the most comfortable thing I've ever sat in," she said. "You definitely feel the vibrations."
With its small fleet of Flyers, Kitty Hawk has already conducted about 1,500 flights among interested business partners and social influencers, CNN reported. The aim now is to get it in the hands of customers; people can express interest via the company's website.
Thrun said that securing public acceptance for the Flyer is the company's biggest priority.
"The No. 1 most important thing other than safety for us is societal acceptance," he told CNN. "Will people be willing to fly on these devices, be willing to live next to these devices like this? That's why opened this training facility in Lake Las Vegas — we're here to learn from you, to see your reaction."
You can read more about the first Flyer test flight by a journalist over at CNN.
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