Kittyhawk, the air-taxi firm backed by billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page, might be closing down, dealing a setback to the long-elusive dream of growing flying vehicles. 

“We have made the decision to wind down Kittyhawk,” the corporate stated on Twitter. “We’re still working on the details of what’s next.”

The firm’s expertise is predicted to stay on within the type of its Wisk Aero three way partnership with Boeing Co. Wisk’s operations received’t be affected by Kittyhawk’s shutdown, Boeing stated on Wednesday.

Kittyhawk was based in 2010 to pioneer the marketplace for so-called eVTOLs — electrical vertical takeoff and touchdown plane — with the lofty purpose of democratizing the skies. The secretive firm was run by Sebastian Thrun, a Google veteran who labored on self-driving vehicles, augmented-reality glasses and different initiatives.

The enterprise was one in every of a number of startups engaged on the idea, which has confirmed to be a larger problem than some anticipated. Air taxis have suffered crashes throughout testing in current months, elevating considerations about their security.

Insider previously reported on Kittyhawk’s plans to shut.

Kittyhawk shaped its Wisk enterprise with Boeing Co. in 2019, and the airplane producer went on to take a position $450 million within the partnership. Earlier this week, Boeing and Wisk offered their imaginative and prescient for a world the place eVTOLs can coexist with bigger industrial plane.

“Kittyhawk’s decision to cease operations does not change Boeing’s commitment to Wisk,” a spokeswoman for the airplane producer stated in an electronic mail. “We are proud to be a founding member of Wisk Aero and are excited to see the work they are doing to drive innovation and sustainability through the future of electric air travel.”

The aviation titan helped showcase Wisk’s rotor-powered Cora plane on the Farnborough International Airshow in July. Along with financing the enterprise, Boeing has been offering engineering sources for a bigger, electrical four-seater plane that Wisk intends to ultimately certify with US regulators. 

The air-taxi market nonetheless has quite a few opponents, together with Joby Aviation Inc., Archer Aviation Inc., Germany’s Lilium NV and Brazil’s Eve, however they face unsure prospects for these futuristic automobiles. Aviation regulators haven’t but licensed the brand new era of flying machines to move people.

Kittyhawk’s purpose was to make an air taxi that might be remotely piloted, was smaller and lighter than different eVTOLs, and will take off from practically anyplace. The firm was concentrating on a price of lower than $1 a mile, which might have made the taxis cheaper than ride-sharing providers.

Now Kittyhawk’s shutdown closes a chapter for one of many highest-profile eVTOL pioneers — and reveals how onerous the market is to crack. As of Wednesday, the corporate nonetheless had this message on its residence web page: “If anyone can do this, we can.”

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