Larry Page's autonomous air taxi 'Cora' flies in New Zealand

Kitty Hawk isn't putting a timeframe around when Cora will be available for public flights.

California-based company Kitty Hawk, operating as Zephyr Airworks in New Zealand, has revealed it's testing the world's first self-piloted and electric air taxi.

You might not think of New Zealand as being on the cutting edge of aviation innovations, but with a new self-flying taxi aiming to achieve regulatory approval, perhaps it's time to rethink that assessment.

Known as Cora, the aircraft uses a multi-rotor system to take off and land vertically without the need for a runway. Once it's in the air, all those propellers provide more traditionally plane-like forward thrust.

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.

Cora is capable of traveling at up to 110mph (180km/s) with a range of 62 miles (100km) carrying two passengers. That was always just a stepping stone towards the company's larger goal of building viable self-flying taxis, however. They've found a collaborator in New Zealand; prime minister Jacinda Ardern told The New York Times, "We've got an ambitious target in New Zealand of being net carbon zero by 2050...exciting projects like this are part of how we make that happen".

Autonomous flight, and short-hop on-demand aerial transportation, are both big areas of focus for some other high-profile companies, including Uber, which is hosting its second annual conference dedicated to the idea in May, and Airbus, which has been investing in small, electric, autonomous aircraft via its own Vahanna project and through partnerships, including with automaker Audi. Intel had a wild one at CES this year, too. It looked less like a vehicle than a jet ski with wings.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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