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Kitty Hawk begins testing Cora air taxi
13 March 2018, 07:19 | Cameron Gross
Testing of world-first self-piloted air taxi in Canterbury
Flying from the South Island into the future - without a pilot South Island testing of autonomous air travel is being welcomed by Christchurch Airport.
The flying vehicle company led by Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun and backed by Google co-founder Larry Page is breaking cover with a new deal that will see it test its autonomous electric air taxis with the New Zealand government, with the aim of having a commercial network ready to carry passengers within as little as three years, the New York Times reports. That was always just a stepping stone towards the company's larger goal of building viable self-flying taxis, however.
"Cora rises like a helicopter and flies like a plane, eliminating the need for a runway and creating the possibility of taking off from places like rooftops", a fact sheet by the startup reads. Kitty Hawk has the agreement of the government to test Cora there and everyone involved hopes it will lead to the first commercial network of flying taxis.
No matter what you call it, electric-powered, autonomous aircraft are starting tests in New Zealand, with the aim of carrying passengers in three years.
The New York Times also points out that New Zealand's decision could be seen as a positive sign for other major countries like the United States. It can go 60 miles on a charge, at heights of up to 3,000 feet and speeds of 110 miles per hour. It has a 62-mile range and room on board for two passengers.
After operating in the Kiwi shadows, Kitty Hawk has finally made its existence public. Page's involvement with a California entity called Zee Airworks on similar grounds has been a bit less of a secret, though Zee Airworks has yet to lay anything out publicly in the same manner that Kitty Hawk has. Kitty Hawk intends to own and operate the vehicles itself, per the report, kind of like what Ford intends to do with its first fleet of autonomous cars to enter commercial service.
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