Self-Flying Air Taxi Tested in New Zealand

Self-Flying Air Taxi Tested in New Zealand

Flying from the South Island into the future - without a pilot South Island testing of autonomous air travel is being welcomed by Christchurch Airport.

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.

The technology, eight years in the making, had been searching for its own Kitty Hawk, where it could test "an air taxi, affectionately named Cora, that could take off like a helicopter and transition to flying like a plane", according to the release.

Whilst other air-taxi projects are planning on flying in congested cities such as Dallas and Dubai, in the case of UberAir, Kitty Hawk will be flying first in the relatively New Zealand. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway. Its goal is to become part of an airline-like or ride-sharing service.

Early specifications show that the fully-autonomous aircraft is capable of reaching a top speed of 110mph and have a flight range of approximately 62 miles.

This time around, though, Kitty Hawk's ambitions are bigger. As the New York Times explains, today the company will join with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce an agreement to test the vehicles there.

Kitty Hawk is run by former Google X head Sebastian Thrun, while Cora's initial blog post makes out New Zealand as its base to make a future "where the freedom of flight belongs to everyone" in the same way that the Wright Brothers initially took off in North Carolina.

Once it's in the air, a single propeller drives Cora at about 110 miles per hour, between altitudes of 500 and 3,000 feet. 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.