Autonomous Flying Taxi Backed By Google Co-Founder Unveiled

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The company, financed by Google co-founder Larry Page, intends to seek official certification for the Cora, an autonomous flying taxi, with the intent of deploying a fleet of flying taxis in as little as three years.

Kitty Hawk, which has so far only demonstrated its piloted recreational hovercraft (a luxury item created to help it spur development of its autonomous air taxis) has been testing its autonomous electric passenger aircraft, which resembles a small plane with variable rotors that can go from a vertical alignment for take-off and landing, to a horizontal one for flying like an ordinary plane through the skies. It can go 60 miles on a charge, at heights of up to 3,000 feet and speeds of 110 miles per hour.

Fixed wing flight: On a single propeller.

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Cora is capable of traveling at up to 110mph (180km/s) with a range of 62 miles (100km) carrying two passengers.

"Zephyr Airworks came here because of the ease of doing business in New Zealand, our safety-focused regulatory environment, our culture of ingenuity and our vision for clean technologies and future transport alternatives". Mr Page brought in Google-X founder and self-driving vehicle expert Sebastian Thrun to act as CEO of Kitty Hawk and former Virgin America and Delta CEO Fred Reid to head up Zephyr.

When reached for additional comment Tuesday, a Kitty Hawk spokesperson would only refer us to the company's fact sheet and website. Cora is self-piloting, meaning anyone can jump in and use it. We had our aircraft. "But there was no place in the world where Cora could take the next step".

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That last part is one of the major reasons why New Zealand became the ideal spot for Kitty Hawk's testing. The fact sheet mentions that Cora has an experimental permit with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and New Zealand regulators, but only that the company is looking forward to sharing Cora with the New Zealand public.

Dr Peter Crabtree of New Zealand's MBIE saw the opportunity immediately: "In New Zealand, we know we can't keep using the same old approaches to meet our future challenges".

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