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Ideas at the Intersection

Kitty Hawk
A small, self-piloting electric air vehicle

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Designed by students in the NUvention: Energy course, Kitty Hawk is a small, self-piloting electric air vehicle designed to revolutionize the way people move.

Kitty Hawk's small, self-piloting electric air vehicle offers an alternative to being stuck in traffic.
Changing the way we moveKitty Hawk's small, self-piloting electric air vehicle offers an alternative to being stuck in traffic.

Problem

Americans spend an average of 42 hours a year stuck in traffic, resulting in a loss of approximately $121 billion in economic productivity. With a lack of public infrastructure to support easing congestion on the roads, a new method of transportation is needed to help people get where they need to go faster.

Imagine you lived in the suburbs and received a last-minute phone call for a work meeting that required you to be downtown in 30 minutes. You could take a car and spend at least 45 minutes stuck in traffic, or you could take a Kitty Hawk and arrive in less than 10 minutes. Eduardo Ruiz, Kitty Hawk, co-founder

Solution

A conceptual illustration of Kitty Hawk.Kitty Hawk offers to change the way people travel by providing a faster, more affordable, environmentally friendly short-distance air transportation service to everyday commuters. Like a ski lift without cables, Kitty Hawk’s autonomous electric air vehicles are designed to transport one passenger and their carry-on luggage up to 33 miles in distance (approximately 35 minutes of flight time) via an FAA-authorized point-to-point transportation route.

Kitty Hawk’s prototyped design is deliberately simple, with fewer inputs and systems than a traditional helicopter. The craft’s 13 x 13 frame is similar in size to an SUV but runs on an electric battery, eliminating the cost of fuel. Completely self-piloted, Kitty Hawk features a triple redundancy flight system that includes three separate points of control so travelers can be assured of a safe flight.

Benefits

Development Process

Kitty Hawk was formed in January 2016 during Northwestern’s interdisciplinary NUvention: Energy course. The startup’s founding members come from a diverse background in engineering, transportation, law, business, and government.

  1. The group researched the existing unmanned aerial vehicles, certified pilot, and alternative aviation segments to identify a target market where Kitty Hawk could fit.
  2. The team conducted extensive interviews with leading experts in aviation and innovation, including researchers focused on autonomous driving, aircraft executives, NASA representatives, and former Air Force One pilots.
  3. The team conducted a technical viability analysis to prove the specifications of the vehicle, and created a visual rendering of the vehicle to showcase its capabilities.
  4. After determining their technical model was viable, the team developed a business plan that identified target customer bases, the beachhead market, and the estimated Total Available Market (TAM) and Serviceable Available Market (SAM).

Current Status

Members of Kitty Hawk pitched their technology and business plan to the NUvention: Energy board of directors after completing the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation course in March. The startup was accepted into Northwestern’s startup incubator The Garage, where it will take part in spring residency and participate in its Wildfire Summer Accelerator program to gain further traction in launching their startup.

Updated May 2016

CourseNUvention: Energy
Co-foundersPablo Campos (mechanical engineering), Andrew Dilts (Kellogg School of Management), James Griffin (Kellogg School of Management), Aditya Ramkumar (mechanical engineering), Eduardo Ruiz (Kellogg School of Management)
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