It seems that a number of companies are taking to the air and working on new transportation methods. A significant new entry vying for a place in the sky is Kitty Hawk, a company financed by Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO, Larry Page. (Kitty Hawk is run by Sebastian Thrun who started Google’s autonomous car unit as director of Google X.) The company has been working somewhat stealthily in New Zealand, testing a new type of fully electric, self-piloting flying taxis.
New Zealand’s prime minister recently announced that it will test Kitty Hawk’s autonomous planes as part of an official certification process. The goal is to have a commercial network of flying taxis in New Zealand in three years. Things will be somewhat different in the U.S. though; the FAA allows test flights of autonomous vehicles, but there is no path to commercialize at this point in time.
Kitty Hawk’s first plane is Cora, a personal air taxi for everyday use. The plane can take off and land like a helicopter, thus eliminating the need for a runway. It has the potential to land on spaces such as rooftops and parking lots. Cora combines self-flying software with expert human supervision. The all-electric vehicle is a pollution-free way to reduce commute time, and stress. Cora has a flight range of 100 kilometers and can fly 150 km/hour.
Look… up in the air… it’s a bird…. it’s a plan…. It’s Cora!
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Discuss the future of transportation. Will it be on the ground?
- Show Kitty Hawk’s Web site: https://kittyhawk.aero/
- A video of the plane is available at: https://cora.aero/
- Discuss the components of an environmental scan: social, technology, economics, competition, and legal.
- Ask students what data they would want in order to make a marketing decision for Kitty Hawk.
- Divide students into teams. Have each team use laptops to do general for one of the five components of the environmental scan.
- Debrief the exercise by compiling information on the white board. Does this give a good picture of the situation faced by Kitty Hawk?
Source: Sorkin, A. (12 March, 2018). Larry Page’s flying taxis, now exiting stealth mode. New York Times.