Kitty Hawk is back at it, revealing their third electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle: HVSD, or “Heaviside.” The aircraft features eight propellers with electric motors and can purportedly cover the 55 mile distance from San Jose to San Francisco in just 15 minutes—that’s a cruise speed of over 200 miles per hour. While that is in and of itself impressive, what might make the most noise in the eVTOL world in regard to Heaviside is just how quiet it is.
Heaviside fits one person and, despite its name, is only one-third the weight of a Cessna. The eight rotors are parsed around the craft, with six on the main forward-swept wing and two on its forewings. The propellers tilt downward to facilitate takeoffs and landings, but then rotate forward for vertical flight. You would think that that many propellers would make a heckuva racket, but where a helicopter clocks in around 85 decibels at 600 feet above ground, Heaviside only reads at below 40 decibels (it does hit 80 during takeoff and landing). “The calculus here is that this has to be socially acceptable for people. There’s a reason why helicopters are not; they’re for rich people and they’re noisy,” says Sebastian Thrun, Kitty Hawk’s CEO.
The goal is to make Heaviside available for personal use and for use as a taxi service. For that to be a reality, Heaviside needs to be able to actually takeoff and land anywhere. “If you build an aircraft that can land anywhere and then say ‘actually, oh wait it can’t just land anywhere, no I need a big helipad and I need to build a bunch of structure and all that’—you miss the point,” states Damon Vander Lind, the physicist and electrical engineer who is leading the Heaviside project. Heaviside actually can live up to the eVTOL name and doesn’t require a pad or a runway.
eVTOLs have been plagued by acoustic issues that keep it from being used in urban areas, but it looks like Heaviside has found a way to jump over that hurdle. With Kitty Hawk hiring former FAA administrator Mike Huerta, they’re that much closer to FAA certification, and that means we’re that much closer to commuting in an eVTOL.