"With New Zealand's internationally respected aviation certification processes, and the country's first on-road testing of a fully autonomous electric vehicle, the South Island is the obvious place to test Cora", he says.
The report says Kitty Hawk is already working on a taxi-hailing app, and plans to run the entire operation itself. Cora will use 12 lift rotors on the wings to take off and land vertically and will use a single propeller to power its fixed-wing flight. With a 36-foot wingspan, the aircraft flies between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground at around 110 miles per hour.
Kitty Hawk, which has so far only demonstrated its piloted recreational hovercraft (a luxury item created to help it spur development of its autonomous air taxis) has been testing its autonomous electric passenger aircraft, which resembles a small plane with variable rotors that can go from a vertical alignment for take-off and landing, to a horizontal one for flying like an ordinary plane through the skies. We first saw the news via The New York Times.
Kitty Hawk is based in California, and a company called Zephyr Airworks is their operator in New Zealand. Bonus points: The Kitty Hawk taxis will be autonomous. That's why Cora can take off and land like a helicopter, eliminating the need for runways.
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The next phase of prototype testing is being carried out in New Zealand.
Flight tests soon followed under an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority and the United States Federal Aviation Administration.
Kitty Hawk's idea is to build a network of self-flying air taxis.
I've spoken to Thrun about the potential of flying "cars" in the past, and the former Google self-driving vehicle project pioneer is extremely bullish on the idea.