Kitty Hawk, a company funded by Google co-founder Larry Page, recently uploaded a video on YouTube demonstrating the ongoing tests of a new kind of self-flying air taxi in New Zealand. According to the New York Times, this air taxi, dubbed “Cora,” is 100 percent electric and can cover a distance of about 100 kilometers on a single charge. The most amazing feature of this flying machine is its ability to take-off and land like a helicopter, meaning it doesn’t need a runway to operate. And, once it takes off from the ground, it starts flying like a plane.
Cora is equipped with 12 lift fans and has a wingspan of 36 feet, according to the BBC News. It flies between altitudes of 500 and 3,000 feet and attains a maximum speed of 110 miles per hour. It can carry two passengers at one time. The self-flying software of Cora enables it to operate automatically (although a human supervision is still needed). It is also equipped with three independent flight-computers, which allow it to fly even if one flight-computer goes down. In case things go completely wrong, a parachute ensures that the vehicle lands safely on the ground.
According to the New York Times report, Cora has not been designed for sale to individual customers. Rather, it would be used as part of a transportation service “similar to an airline or a rideshare.” The initial tests of Cora were performed in New Zealand, where the government has shown much interest in this project because of its environmental benefits.
“We’ve got ambitious goals here in New Zealand, we want to get to net zero emissions by 2050 and that includes mobility,” said Dr. Megan Woods, minister for research, science, and innovation.
Kitty Hawk has approached the aviation regulatory authorities in New Zealand to get permission for carrying out further tests of Cora and to get a certification for its operations in the country. According to the New York Times, Zephyr Airworks will be Kitty Hawk’s operator in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to soon announce a new agreement with Kitty Hawk, although, there is no official information regarding when Cora might be available for rides in the country.
Kitty Hawk hopes its new partnership with the Government of New Zealand would help create a commercial network of air taxis in the country within the next three years. The firm is also reportedly working on a new app that would allow customers to hail its air taxi with ease, much like Uber.