Two California-based companies trying to develop flying cars have been secretly funded by Google co-founder Larry Page, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
The two startups, Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, are competing to build small, electric aircraft that could land and take off vertically, matching Page’s dream of creating the science fiction staple flying car, Bloomberg reported. Page, who has an estimated net worth of $37 billion, put $100 million into Zee.Aero alone, according to the report based on unnamed sources. The companies are not affiliated with Google or its parent, Alphabet (GOOGL).
Page’s investments to realize a childhood dream match the pursuits and passions of some of his fellow billionaire tech leaders. Amazon.com (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla Motors (TSLA) founder Elon Musk have both invested portions of their fortunes in spacecraft and rocket startups, while Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates has put many billions behind efforts to cure disease and reduce poverty.
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Page’s $100 million startup, Zee.Aero, was run by Stanford professor and aeronautics expert Ilan Kroo as CEO from 2011 until last year, according Kroo’s web page, which describes the company as “a bay area startup company focusing on bringing new technologies to civil aviation.” Kroo’s work over the years has included unmanned aerial vehicles (a fancy term for drones), flying pterosaur replicas, America’s Cup sailboats, and high-speed research aircraft, according to the web page.
Kroo stepped down to return to the university, remaining as principal scientist at Zee, while Eric Allison, formerly the chief engineer, was named CEO, according to the Bloomberg report.
The company did immediately respond to a request for a comment. On its website, Zee.Aero says it is “developing a revolutionary new form of transportation” and “working at the intersection of aerodynamics, advanced manufacturing, and electric propulsion.”
Less is known about Kitty Hawk, which Page started last year as a competitor to Zee.Aero headquartered less than a mile away from its rival in Silicon Valley, Bloomberg reported.
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Companies large and small have been trying to develop a flying car for decades without success. Creating a vehicle that can drive on ordinary roads as well as fly through the air and be sold at a price within reach of even wealthy consumers has so far proven to be no more than a dream.
And many other startups are competing to beat Page’s companies to market. Terrafugia in Massachusetts, founded by graduates of MIT 10 years ago, says its version of the flying car will be ready in 2018, for example.