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Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

13 March 2018

A flying vehicle startup backed by Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, has stolen a march on Uber by testing autonomous "air taxis" that could be carrying passengers by 2021. The air taxi looks like a small single-seater plane, but then you notice the wings are covered in a dozen small propellers and there's a surprising lack of noise on take-off. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway.

Kitty Hawk and other companies now pursuing autonomous electric taxi services still face significant regulatory hurdles in the U.S. before the unique business models can become a reality. The project went by the code name Zee.Aero for a while, which Kitty Hawk said was the name of their Cora team during the development stage.

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Kitty Hawk was rumoured to be pitching a "flying car" prototype as far back as 2016 - when it began pitching the concept to various governments to secure backing.

Flying cars, autonomous or otherwise, have picked up major traction in the last few years.

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Early specifications show that the fully-autonomous aircraft is capable of reaching a top speed of 110mph and have a flight range of approximately 62 miles. With a 36-foot wingspan, the aircraft flies between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground at around 110 miles per hour.

Zephyr Airworks boss Fred Reid told local media there was "a really good shot of doing this in the relatively short future" and was striving to have limited services operating in New Zealand in the next three to six years.

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A California-based company unveiled an autonomous air taxi on Tuesday in Christchurch, with an eye on revolutionising personal air travel within the next decade. The fact sheet mentions that Cora has an experimental permit with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and New Zealand regulators, but only that the company is looking forward to sharing Cora with the New Zealand public.

Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand