Autonomous, electric flying air taxis will soon be a thing in New Zealand, thanks to Kitty Hawk, the air taxi company started by Google’s co-founder and former CEO Larry Page, and the country’s premier airline, Air New Zealand.
The vertical take-off-and-landing passenger plane called Cora, which was first introduced to New Zealand earlier this year under the auspices of Kitty Hawk’s NZ-based Zephyr Airworks, was slated at the time to launch (in more ways than one) into NZ skies by 2021 as part of a partnership announced with the NZ government.
Cora is now one step closer to taking to the airways of New Zealand, with Zephyr Airworks entering into an agreement with the NZ airline that the air taxi company hopes will make Cora the first flying air taxis in the world.
Air New Zealand’s chief Christopher Luxon said in a statement that the agreement with Zephyr Airworks signals not only the airline’s commitment to embracing new technologies, but also to clean transport.
“Both companies see the potential for our airspace to free people from the constraints of traffic and its associated social, economic and environmental impacts.
“Through the development of their autonomous electric air taxi Cora, the possibility of getting from A to B quickly and safely, and also relieving the impact of polluting emissions, is very real indeed,” he said.
Zephyr Airworks chief Fred Reid said that partnering with New Zealand’s premier airline will enable the air taxi company to “reinvent mobility”.
“With our aircraft Cora, we are building on eight years of research, development and leading 21st century technology,” says Reid
“We are applying everything that revolutionised the world of communications to transport – we are showing people what is possible. There is also the long-term economic and environmental advantages that will benefit future generations.”
The autonomous electric air taxi, which can take off and land like a helicopter, and fly forwards at speeds of up to 180km per hour, has a range of around 100km according to the company.
It operates a bit like a drone, with 12 rotors on three extensions on each wing, and is designed to carry two passengers at a time.
With an experimental airworthiness certificate from New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority and the US-based Federal Aviation Administration, Zephyr Airworks has so far conducted over 700 test flights globally with the electric air taxi.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.