Autonomous Flying Taxi Backed By Google Co-Founder Unveiled

Doug Carpenter
March 14, 2018

What's the difference between a plane and an flying taxi?

Kitty Hawk's new Cora video claims the aircraft is "self-piloting" so, again, there's no need for a pilot's license.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel says the project is a flawless fit with the city's commitment to becoming carbon neutral.

But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and vehicle parks as landing pads.

The company behind Zephyr Airworks, Kitty Hawk, is run by Sebastian Thrun, who helped start Google's autonomous auto unit as the director of Google X.

"This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport eco system to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet", Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said. Its wingspan is 36 feet.

The project is backed by some of the brightest minds in the aviation and transport technology industries, including former staff from the likes of Nasa, Google, Boeing and Honeywell.

It said Cora took eight years to design but then developers needed a suitable environment to safely test the new technology. The company, which is operating in New Zealand through a company called Zephyr Airworks, has been in discussions with New Zealand regulators for a year and a half, and it hopes to start a commercial flying taxi service in as soon as three years.

"Let's not forget this part of the world is where Richard Pearse first pioneered flying, something we honour with a sculpture within our airport terminal, so it's great to see this bold thinking being revealed here too", he says.

"This project also supports Christchurch's strengths as a place to trial and commercialise innovative ideas and to explore new ways of living".

Kitty Hawk had previously tested another flying vehicle prototype called the "Flyer" last April. "Finally, the dreamers from California met the visionaries from New Zealand", the statement read somewhat breathlessly. In the video, New Zealand's minister for science, research, and innovation, Megan Woods, said that Kitty Hawk's emissions-free plane fits in with the country's goal of getting to net-zero emissions by 2050.

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