Flying taxis to service New Zealand skies

By on 14 March, 2018

Kitty Hawk’s Cora, an autonomous electric flying vehicle that carries two passengers and takes off and lands vertically. Image provided by Kitty Hawk.

Flying car company Kitty Hawk has tested one of its electric, autonomous flying taxis under a new deal that will see them approach regulatory certification and a formal testing regime with the New Zealand government.

Kitty Hawk, led by former Google X head Sebastian Thrun and backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, established Zephyr Airworks to be their operator in New Zealand, where they hope to establish an operational network within three years.

While covertly conducting live flying trials in the country with Zephyr Airworks since October 2017 with their prototype known as ‘Zee.Aero’, Kitty Hawk has broken cover with the announcement of the testing agreement, releasing footage of a market-ready prototype, Cora, in the skies and a detailed timeline of its development.

Kitty Hawk is far from the only firm working on a ‘flying car’ concept — a quaint term broadly applied to a new generation of personal air transport concepts — but appears to be quite a few flying car-lengths ahead of its nearest competitor, Uber Elevate, with a formal testing agreement and serious headway towards regulatory approval.

Cora uses wing-mounted rotors for vertical take off and landings, and a dingle rear-mounted propeller for forward propulsion. Image provided by Kitty Hawk.

In an email to the New York Times, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern said the decision to work with Kitty Hawk was “about sending the message to the world that our doors are open for people with great ideas who want to turn them into reality,” adding that “We’ve got an ambitious target in New Zealand of being net carbon zero by 2050,” a reference to Cora’s all-electric powertrain.

Kitty Hawk says that Cora can reach an altitude ceiling of 915 metres, has a range of around 100 kilometres per charge, and is reportedly capable of reaching a top speed of 180 kilometres per hour.

“Cora isn’t just about flying,” Kitty Hawk said in a statement. “It’s about people and mobility. It’s about the time you could save soaring over traffic. The friends you could visit. The opportunities you could seize. Cora is about giving everyone a fast and easy way to get around that doesn’t come at the expense of the planet.”

Find out more about the Cora at Kitty Hawk’s launch video.

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