July 28, 2021

Kitty Hawk acquires former rival of DJI 3D Robotics

Kitty Hawk, the air taxi company backed by Larry Page, acquires the shares of former DJI competitor, 3D Robotics. As part of this acquisition, Chris Anderson will become the COO of Kitty Hawk.

This recovery was first reported by Forbes. The latter posted a detailed look at the current state of Kitty Hawk and its new focus on developing a eVTOL. As a result, Anderson will be under the leadership of CEO Sebastian Thrun, a former Google executive.

Kitty Hawk changes course after recent turmoil

For a while, 3D Robotics was the only US company to attempt to break into the emerging consumer drone market. It faces pioneers like the French company Parrot and the Chinese company DJI.

However, when DJI started to dominate the market, 3D Robotics abandoned its mainstream product. Moreover, the latter had autonomous abilities and was called Solo.

As a result, the company laid off some employees and spent the following years developing software for commercial drones. Late last year, the company applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to certify a drone for government use. This product “eventually” relies on automation, indicating a continuing interest in hardware.

3D Robotics isn’t the only drone company working on autonomous technology. In fact, startup Skydio has released two versions of its own stand-alone camera drone.

Flyer: a personal electric plane

Page founded Kitty Hawk in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the company proved its worth. Initially, the startup focused on a small personal electric plane called the Flyer.

According to Kitty Hawk, this device would prove to be so easy to fly that a pilot’s license would not be necessary. In addition, this start-up even declared at the time that a commercial version would be available at the end of 2017.

Kitty Hawk has developed a functional prototype of the Flyer and even presented a much more elegant version the following year. In 2018, the startup also revealed a second aircraft called Cora, which it entrusted to a joint venture with Boeing.

Heaviside: a silent electric plane

Kitty Hawk discontinued the Flyer in 2020, laid off dozens of employees, and turned her attention to a third electric aircraft in development. This aircraft, called Heaviside, looks more like a traditional airplane than vehicles built by many other eVTOL startups.

If Heaviside was originally intended to be flown, the company is now striving to make it fully autonomous. Thrun allegedly insisted on this change so much that Kitty Hawk fired the engineer behind the project.

The Forbes report also details a number of recent employee departures. Indeed, some engineers left Kitty Hawk after believing that Vander Lind had retaliated against them.