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Self-Flying Air Taxi Tested in New Zealand

14 March 2018, 06:21 | Lucy Hill

Cora can carry two passengers. Supplied

Cora can carry two passengers

The company has been pitching the air taxi privately since 2016, finally choosing New Zealand as its R&D and certification location as well as its launch market due to the country's large support of renewable energy and electric vehicles as well as its accommodating airspace regulations.

Due to its relative isolation from other nations and long stretches of uninhabited land, New Zealand is the flawless testing ground for Kitty Hawk to prove its tech works without getting in the way of commercial planes or endangering people on the ground.

Under the name Zephyr Airworks, California startup Kitty Hawk has been testing an air taxi prototype in New Zealand since October, SBS News reported Tuesday.

Nicknamed Cora, Kitty Hawk's self-driving, fully electric aircraft is a plane/drone hybrid: it's capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) without a runway (like any drone), but once airborne, it uses its 36-foot wingspan and a dozen battery-powered rotors to fly.

As for how Kitty Hawk's self-flying tech works, we haven't seen anything revealed yet.

Kitty Hawk's Cora is completely autonomous, fully electric, and can travel at speeds of 93 miles per hour.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a partnership with a company financed by Google co-founder Larry Page to test autonomous air taxis in the country.

"I have had the privilege of seeing the self-piloted air taxi and I am very excited about what it offers for future generations - to live and move in a way that has never been possible before".

The flying taxi can "take off like a helicopter and transition to flying like a plane", the company says. Kitty Hawk is behind the creation of the self-flying planes.

Cora is completely self piloting and can reach speeds of 150 km/h and has a range of 100 kilometres. "New Zealand has always been viewed as having a thoughtful and safety-conscious regulatory regime", the Times reports. This means that the rules it develops may become an example for other nations, including the US. In November, Boeing acquired Aurora Flight Sciences.

In an interview, Reid said the opportunity to use New Zealand as the first place to commercialize the autonomous taxi service was a step-change in the advancement of the sector.



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