Kitty Hawk begins testing Cora air taxi

Alonzo Simpson
March 13, 2018

The company is called Kitty Hawk, and it just revealed Cora, a prototype air taxi that takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane, and uses electric propulsion.

Kitty Hawk and other companies now pursuing autonomous electric taxi services still face significant regulatory hurdles in the USA before the unique business models can become a reality.

But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and vehicle parks as landing pads.

"We have been working closely with Zephyr Airworks and this partnership is a significant demonstration of our joint commitment to finding ways to improve future ways of living", ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris says.

Ride in a pilotless flying taxi, anyone?

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Kitty Hawk is run by former Google X head Sebastian Thrun, while Cora's initial blog post makes out New Zealand as its base to make a future "where the freedom of flight belongs to everyone" in the same way that the Wright Brothers initially took off in North Carolina. Cora can also fly at altitudes of between 500 to 3,000 feet and is to be powered by a fully electric engine. "We saw Cora's potential as a sustainable, efficient and transformative technology that can enrich people's lives, not only in New Zealand, but ultimately the whole world".

They settled on New Zealand because of its uncongested airspace and rigorous regulatory environment, with Reid saying local officials had embraced the idea.

"They could have laughed us out of the room".

Cora has been given an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. The company, which is operating in New Zealand through a company called Zephyr Airworks, has been in discussions with New Zealand regulators for a year and a half, and it hopes to start a commercial flying taxi service in as soon as three years.

"This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport ecosystem to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet", Christchurch's mayor Lianne Dalziel said in a statement.

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