Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft start-up Kitty Hawk formalized its partnership with Boeing late on Monday, announcing the formation of a joint venture called Wisk. The new company is primarily focused on bringing Kitty Hawk’s Cora eVTOL to market, although the partners have yet to confirm a timeline for the program.
The formation of the Wisk joint venture comes just over five months after Boeing and Kitty Hawk announced they would work together on eVTOL developments. No details have been released about the breakdown of equity ownership in Wisk or whether Boeing will be providing further funding for the company.
However, the composition of Wisk’s board suggests that Boeing is the senior partner in a company launched in March 2010 by Google founder Larry Page and vice president Sebastian Thrun. Gary Gysin, president and CEO of Boeing autonomous marine vehicle subsidiary Liquid Robotics, has been appointed president and CEO of Wisk. His fellow directors include Steve Nordlund (vice president and general manager of Boeing NeXt), Logan Jones (vice president of Boeing Horizon X), David Estrada (chief legal and policy officer of autonomous delivery vehicle developer Nuro), and Thrun (who has been CEO of Kitty Hawk).
Kitty Hawk has been developing Cora with New Zealand-based Zephyr Airworks, which will now be called Wisk New Zealand. Very few details have been released about Cora, which appears to be a two-seat, all-electric aircraft designed to operate autonomously with a range of up to around 60 miles. Flight testing has been underway in New Zealand and, as of the last published report on the program, three prototypes had conducted more than 700 test flights since early 2017. Wisk’s headquarters will remain in Mountain View, California.
It remains to be seen what now happens with Kitty Hawk’s separate Flyer and Heaviside single-seat electric personal air vehicles. A spokesperson for Wisk confirmed that these aircraft do not form part of the new company's plans.
Also still unclear is what the development means for the U.S. aerospace group’s other eVTOL plans. These include the Passenger Air Vehicle (PAV) being developed by its Aurora Flight Sciences subsidiary, the Cargo Air Vehicle being advanced by a separate Boeing NeXt team and the partnership announced with sports car maker Porsche in October to work on designs for a luxury eVTOL aircraft. A Boeing spokesman told AIN that it will not make any further comment, for now, about either the ownership structure of the new joint venture or the status of the Cora program.