She was CMO of Udacity where she was instrumental in increasing revenue and establishing a global brand. To save on weight, two former employees said that engineers dispensed with the protective shielding commonly used between lithium-ion battery cells in cars, bundling cells together with tape, increasing the risk that if one ignited, others would catch on fire, too. Sebastian Thrun isn’t your ordinary Silicon Valley computer geek-cum-Stanford professor. “It was a pattern—if you talked about safety, you were done, so you just didn’t,” said one former employee. Sebastian Thrun added that an announcement is due in March about the next stages of the project. It has about 300 employees. Thrun was one of the founders of Google X, … Sebastian Thrun is a scientist, educator, inventor, and entrepreneur. Though Flyer was capped to 10 feet in altitude and 20 mph in speed, and Kitty Hawk said it was intended to be flown over water, for safety, the company was presenting it as a thrill ride, putting up Web pages to take applications for the first production models from individuals and potential fleet operators like amusement parks or resorts. Michael Huerta served as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from 2013 to 2018. Over her career she has worked with a range of companies across the globe including Netflix, Walmart, Motorola, Baidu, Khan Academy and Guardant Health. He is CEO of Kitty Hawk Corporation, and chairman and co-founder of Udacity. “The technology is one thing, but 80% of the effort is in productizing and building an aircraft that can be certified,” said Lawson. Kitty Hawk’s Flyer, as the project came to be called, was intended to be small enough to avoid safety certification altogether, weighing in under 254 pounds so it could qualify under Federal Aviation Administration rules as an ultralight, a category of aircraft that’s long been the province of hobbyists and tinkerers. Its mission is to make the dream of personal flight a reality. Sebastian Thrun, robotics expert and CEO at Kitty Hawk Tackling the skills shortage Thrun wants to solve one of the biggest problems related to AI — the skills shortage — by … The startup promised to put the Flyer in eager buyers’ hands by the end of the year. Stanley is now on display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The YouTube personality Casey Neistat gave it a try, publishing a video that was watched 2.2 million times in which he shouts happily while banking and spinning Flyer around the lake. Former Kitty Hawk employees said that around the time the Boeing partnership was announced, access to the Cora building, which had contained a cafeteria and reception area shared by all, was abruptly restricted to workers only on that program, and IT, HR and other back-office workers were divided between Cora and Kitty Hawk. Zee tested a piloted electric aircraft that the company considered selling as a kit to be assembled by buyers. His LinkedIn profile states he’s head of a stealth mode startup. Damon completed his undergraduate work from MIT in Physics and Computer Science/Electrical Engineering, and holds a pilot’s license, which he utilizes along with his bike for his daily commute. Thrun wanted a small team to work fast and creatively, using as many off-the-shelf components as possible, according to former employees. “Just imagine traveling at 80 miles an hour in a straight line at any time of day without ever having to stop,” Thrun told the Guardian a few months after Cora was unveiled. The company’s other major program, Cora, also faces daunting regulatory hurdles. With flight time maxing out at 20 minutes due to battery limitations, Kitty Hawk initially intended ... [+] Flyer for quick thrills, but the company has pivoted to an idea to trial using it in a transportation service. The modern-day Kitty Hawk was run by Thrun, who previously directed Google’s moonshot R&D program and founded online education company Udacity. “Kitty Hawk doesn’t start from the principle of what’s the economically viable thing we’re going to build. Michael received an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Riverside and a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. “That’s just how it had to be if you wanted to keep getting a paycheck.”. These challenges may explain why a strategic partnership with Boeing announced in June could go much deeper than publicly announced. Kitty Hawk has reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard to ask how it would classify Flyer, a Coast Guard spokesman said. You may opt-out by, Deputy editor for Industry; eyes on the skies. Eventually Zee decided the plane should be developed into a pilotless air taxi, now dubbed Cora. Ask serial entrepreneur and inventor Sebastian Thrun and the answer you'd get is, “more disruption.” As the CEO of Kitty Hawk, a company with the bold vision of bringing flying cars to consumers, Thrun is imaging a future where autonomous cars have been replaced by personal autonomous planes. In 2017, success seemed to be just around the corner for Kitty Hawk, the secretive flying-car company that’s bankrolled by Google cofounder Larry Page and run by Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford AI and robotics whiz who had launched Google’s self-driving car unit. At Kitty Hawk, Damon is general manager of Heaviside, where he leads a team in developing and building the first quiet eVTOL vehicle of its kind. Udacity is for online learning, offering nano-degrees (short courses) in areas including drones and machine learning; Kitty Hawk Corp is making electric planes and flying cars while AI powered Cresta.ai is trying to automate repetitive jobs. Kitty Hawk is a startup taking aim at creating real, usable flying cars. The company was founded 2010. Beyond Udacity, Thrun is pushing new boundaries, working with Larry Page to launch a flying car last month with start-up Kitty Hawk, and using technology to … That would leave Kitty Hawk with two other aircraft: Flyer and Heaviside, an autonomous winged one-seater unveiled in October that, in an attempt to solve the noise problem that has made heliports unwelcome neighbors, was designed to be 100 times quieter than helicopters, as well as faster. It is supported by Google's co-founder Larry Page. I help direct our coverage of autos, energy and manufacturing, and write about aerospace and defense. Sebastian Thrun has been at the forefront of disruption, taking on big ideas as head of Google X, founding online learning platform Udacity and now Kitty Hawk, which uses electric power and AI … Kitty Hawk had just shown off a prototype of the Flyer, a single-seat, battery-powered aircraft intended to be a low-altitude fun machine for use over water, like a jet ski on rotors, with handling that would make flying as easy as driving. (Update: On Monday, after publication of this story, Kitty Hawk and Boeing announced that Cora has been folded into a joint venture company named Wisk Aero. Another version needs to be constructed with safety systems, weatherproofing and passenger comforts, and designed to be easily manufacturable. EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change, Michigan Economic Development Corporation BrandVoice, putting up Web pages to take applications, exploring a route across San Francisco Bay. Thrun worked at and led Google’s self-driving car project before turning entrepreneur. Sebastian is the CEO of Kitty Hawk, whose vision is to free people from traffic. Intent on bringing Flyer to market quickly, management in several instances brushed off workers who expressed worries that problems with the aircraft could endanger passengers, two former employees said. It engineers something to solve a problem and then it’s ‘Okay, here’s a cool thing we built—what can we do with it?’ ” said an ex-employee who was among a wave of departures from the Flyer program this year. Send tips to jbogaisky[at]forbes.com, © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. And riders will no longer have the freedom to take Flyer for a joyride, they say: The flight path will be automated. Sebastian Thrun is an innovator with the reputation of getting big projects off the ground— sometimes literally. Michael redefined the FAA's regulatory relationship with the aviation industry leading to greater levels of safety and led the effort to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system to pave the way for the safe integration of commercial space operations and small unmanned aircraft systems. Several said they believe Boeing is now in control of Cora. With an engineering team smaller than 20, Flyer made rapid progress. Those individuals declined to comment when reached by Forbes. Sebastian Thrun speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt with a canine guest in 2017 in San Francisco. He spent several years as a professor at Stanford University where he led the Stanford Racing Team, whose “Stanley” won the DARPA Grand Challenge. At least two members of the flight test team were let go after questioning the safety of the aircraft, they said, and some other members of the Flyer team who spoke up quit or jumped to another program at Kitty Hawk. At Google, he founded Google X and Google's self-driving car team. Sebastian Thrun is CEO of Kitty Hawk, founder and Chairman of Udacity and Cresta, a former Google Fellow and VP, and an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University. By continuing to use our Services, you are consenting to our use of cookies and our data collection. Sebastian Thrun (born May 14, 1967) is an entrepreneur, educator, and computer scientist from Germany. Kitty Hawk offered a rare peek behind the curtain to the New York Times in 2017, showing off what appeared to be a motorcycle on a spiderweb with eight downward-facing rotors. We are proud to partner with public and private organizations who share our vision for a traffic-free future. Late that year the Mountain View, California-based company also began flight-testing a more ambitious project in New Zealand: a two-seat electric self-flying taxi called Cora that Kitty Hawk says will enable city dwellers to soar over gridlocked streets. Damon Vander Lind is a start-up founder, aircraft designer, and engineer with a passion for building highly efficient flying vehicles. Sebastian was the founder of X (previously Google X), where he led the development of the self-driving car, Google Glass, and other projects. The focus has been on improving reliability rather than iterating on the design, and on finding a use for the vehicles. Those final, long and painstaking steps promise to be a tall hurdle for many of the urban air mobility startups as they try to transition from Skunk Works-type inventors to real businesses, said Lawson—and it could account for the bulk of the spending. The jetmaker and Kitty Hawk declined to comment. Thrun sees personalized air transportation as the solution to traffic congestion. At Kitty Hawk, they engineer, design, and build safe, fun, easy-to-fly aircraft. Flyer president Alex Roetter and Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun said the organization will now turn its efforts on a previously secret all-electric aircraft, the Heaviside. The latest idea: that Kitty Hawk would operate Flyer as a service. Before that, he was a Google VP and Fellow, a Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, and before that at Carnegie Mellon University. At the same time, the company may have given up control of Cora, sources suggest. But Flyer wasn’t ready to thrill: The latest prototype was breaking down frequently and needed regular troubleshooting and repair by engineers, three former employees say. In May, Kitty Hawk general counsel Molly Abraham made a filing in Delaware to incorporate a company under the name of Cora Aero at the same address as Kitty Hawk; a November filing lists Cora Aero’s CEO as Gary Gysin, who until February was head of Liquid Robotics, a developer of wave-powered autonomous watercraft that was acquired by Boeing in 2016. Two Boeing executives and Wisk’s CEO, who previously worked for Boeing, hold three seats on the five-member board.). She completed her undergraduate work at Stanford University Phi Beta Kappa and her master’s work at Harvard University. Operation of ultralights is restricted—they can’t be flown over populated areas or at night—but ensuring the aircraft is safe is left up to the maker. Related. Sebastian Thrun is a scientist, educator, inventor, and entrepreneur. Shernaz was CMO of Inktomi for six years and took the company public; worked in video games, and started out at Sun Microsystems. Kitty Hawk got off to an earlier start than many of the scores of startups now attempting to build electric urban air taxis, and the deep pockets of Page, who has a nearly $60 billion fortune, have been a huge advantage, enabling the company to hire hundreds of engineers, machinists and designers to create cutting-edge aircraft. Kitty Hawk, the eVTOL company founded by Sebastian Thrun and Google co-founder Larry Page, released an in-depth video describing the performance characteristics of its single-seat Heaviside aircraft. “It would be transformational to almost every person I know.”, Two years later, however, Kitty Hawk’s promise to bring personal flying to the masses has failed to take wing yet amid technical problems and safety issues with Flyer and unresolved questions about its practical use, according to four former Kitty Hawk employees who were among six who spoke to Forbes on the condition of anonymity due to nondisclosure agreements. Heaviside is our most powerful, fastest and quietest vehicle yet, bringing us even closer to our goal of freeing the world from traffic. Sebastian Thrun is among the most prolific entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Then in 2018 it started giving a small number of media test rides at Lake Las Vegas of a more finished vehicle with a composite frame with a constellation of ten upward-facing rotors around it. Additionally, a unique provision of the regulations permits “adventure flights” by aircraft that don’t have standard safety certifications, such as vintage warbirds, which could allow Kitty Hawk to launch a revenue-generating passenger service before Cora is fully certified, said James Lawson, an aerospace safety consultant who previously consulted with Kitty Hawk on Cora when the company was considering pursuing certification in the U.S. Cora is hand-built, largely of custom components made in-house, and still at the stage of proving out its technology, former employees on that program said.