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Christchurch testing ground for world's first self-piloted electric air taxi

13 March 2018, 07:18 | Marlene Myers

Cora was founded and developed by Silicon Valley based Kitty Hawk

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Kitty Hawk, the company led by the "godfather of self-driving cars" Sebastian Thrun and backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, has revealed its Cora aircraft, which is a hybrid vertical take-off and landing design that can take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane.

Now, it would seem that Cora and the company behind it are nearly ready for prime time, as Kitty Hawk and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced that an agreement has been reached that will see Kitty Hawk's portfolio officially tested for certification.

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. The Cora finds Kitty Hawk's vision coming to life. 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.

The report says Kitty Hawk is already working on a taxi-hailing app, and plans to run the entire operation itself.

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The good folks over at Kitty Hawk are looking to change the game of flight.

Once it's in the air, a single propeller drives Cora at about 110 miles per hour, between altitudes of 500 and 3,000 feet.

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. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, in an email to The New York Times, explained that her country wants to become "net carbon zero" by 2050, and the Cora can help make that happen. It looked less like a auto than a jet ski with wings. The vehicles more often look like small planes than flying cars.

Several other companies, including Uber and Airbus, are also racing to commercialize flying taxis.



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