Google guru Page tests flying taxis in New Zealand

Flying taxi

In April a year ago, Google co-founder Larry Page publicly announced he was building an electric, flying auto through a company called Kitty Hawk.

Kitty Hawk is based in California, and a company called Zephyr Airworks is their operator in New Zealand. It's built to use self-flying software, and uses 12 lift fans for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) like a helicopter, so there's no need for a runway.

What's the difference between a plane and an flying taxi? It has a 62-mile range and room on board for two passengers.

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.

Dubbed "Cora", the vehicle can "take off like a helicopter and transition to flying like a plane", Kitty Hawk said in a statement on Monday.

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Cora can fly between 500 feet to 3,000 feet above ground, has a 36-foot wingspan and can go at a speed of up to 100 miles an hour.

Zephyr Airworks boss Fred Reid told local media there was "a really good shot of doing this in the relatively short future" and was striving to have limited services operating in New Zealand in the next three to six years.

Kitty Hawk's first publicly revealed air taxi, Cora, is a fully autonomous and electric machine.

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.

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.