See Google cofounder's flying taxi take to the skies

Gwen Vasquez
March 14, 2018

Many companies have made a splash in the flying auto or airborne taxi industry, which has only just begun to earn its wings (pun intended). A video showed a prototype aircraft flying over water, but it was unclear when it would be approved by regulators for anything more than a hobby.

Kitty Hawk shipped its first air taxi to New Zealand in October 2017, where initial tests began shortly after. Kitty Hawk confirmed they have been "secretly" conducting testing under the cover of another company, Zephyr Airworks, for eight years.

Google co-founder Larry Page and now the chief executive of Google's parent Alphabet is financing a company, Kitty Hawk, run by Sebastian Thrun, who helped start Google's autonomous vehicle unit as the director of GoogleX.

Zephyr said using the air taxi would be a simple experience for passengers, similar to taking a ride-share in a vehicle.

Known as Cora, the electric aircraft has a dozen lift fans on its wings, making it capable of vertical take-off and landing like a helicopter.

The venture has been unveiled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, alongside Zephyr Airworks, the local operator of Kitty Hawk, which is backed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page.

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Meet "Cora", the fully autonomous electric "air taxi" that flies like a helicopter at speeds of up to 177 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour), transporting up to two people between 150 meters and 915 meters (500 and 3,000 feet) above ground.

Included in the company's fact sheet about Cora: what the air taxi will do if its propellers fail in midair.

Cora was created by Kitty Hawk, run by former Google X head Sebastian Thrun and named after the town in North Carolina where the Wright brothers completed their first controlled flight. The company suggested a long-term plan to bring a commercial air-taxi service to New Zealand.

Airways today announced it is piloting future technologies needed to support the arrival of autonomous flying vehicles in New Zealand airspace. This means that the rules it develops may become an example for other nations, including the US.

Of course, Kitty Hawk isn't the only company doing such work.

In this aircraft's case, neither a pilot nor a pilot's license is even necessary for its operation, however. It also says the firm is working with the New Zealand government on the rollout of a "commercial air taxi service".

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