Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Technology | By Christopher Mann

Kitty Hawk begins testing Cora air taxi

Kitty Hawk begins testing Cora air taxi

Cora will use 12 lift rotors on the wings to take off and land vertically and will use a single propeller to power its fixed-wing flight.

Cora is capable of traveling at up to 110mph (180km/s) with a range of 62 miles (100km) carrying two passengers.

You might not think of New Zealand as being on the cutting edge of aviation innovations, but with a new self-flying taxi aiming to achieve regulatory approval, perhaps it's time to rethink that assessment.

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Page's involvement in Kitty Hawk was mostly secret until recently, thanks to a shell company called Zephyr Airworks.

Kitty Hawk's first publicly revealed air taxi, Cora, is a fully autonomous and electric machine. In fact, he told me he believes that it will leapfrog autonomous cars sometime in the next few years, mostly because when you take to the skies, there are actually fewer problems to solve in terms of building a self-piloting system than when you're locked to the ground, which naturally means you're having to deal with pedestrians, other cars and more, with one less dimension to navigate. We had our moment.

The company has been pitching the air taxi privately since 2016, finally choosing New Zealand as its R&D and certification location as well as its launch market due to the country's large support of renewable energy and electric vehicles as well as its accommodating airspace regulations.

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The company Kitty Hawk, which operates as Zephyr Airworks in New Zealand, showed off the self-piloted electric aircraft, which looks like a cross between an aeroplane and a drone.

Dr Peter Crabtree of New Zealand's MBIE saw the opportunity immediately: "In New Zealand, we know we can't keep using the same old approaches to meet our future challenges".

The New York Times reports that the firm-a project funded by Larry Page and led by Sebastian Thrun-has been trialling its Cora air taxi in New Zealand.

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