Competition is really heating up to see which country makes flying taxis an actual thing that people can do first. Dubai has had Volocopter, Audi and Airbus have revealed their answer to the flying driverless car race with Pop.Up Next in Geneva, and Chinese drone giant EHANG have flexed their drone-making muscle with a test flight of their EHANG 184.
And now, to this amazing list you can add Cora, the flying taxi developed by Kitty Hawk, a realisation of the dream of the co-creator of Google.
Many people know of drones as unmanned aerial vehicles used to take photos or video, and there is a lot of talk about drones being used for delivery.
But as its promoter Larry Page, co-creator of Google and CEO of Alphabet, points out, this device is just one of several projects aimed at “reimagining transport”.
In fact, in 2017 its creators pointed out that they had designed it on purpose to operate on land with the idea of creating in the not too distant future a larger version for urban areas, with the ability to fly over cars and thus avoid traffic jams. Now, the New York Times have announced that after a year and a half of negotiations, Page and his company have reached an agreement with the government of New Zealand to move ahead with the Kitty Hawk project, to become a functioning system of autonomous air taxis ready to sail the clear blue skies of NZ in 2021.
Fred Reid, CEO of Kitty Hawk’s NZ operations, Zephyr Airworks, says the agreement with New Zealand has a lot of promise. “We’re really at the beginning of our quest. It’s one thing to design and rigorously test an aircraft but it’s another thing to make it useful to society. That is the reason that we are so excited and proud to be working with the people and the government of New Zealand to roll out a commercial air taxi service. New Zealand is known for it’s innovation, it’s devotion to clean energy – which we offer – and to it’s very high aviation standards,” he explained in the Meet Cora video.
And for the public, it will be as simple as getting in Cora and buckling up. As Eric Allison, Kitty Hawk’s Vice President for Engineering, said, “Cora is self-piloting, which means that to get where you need to go, you don’t need a pilot’s license.”
How far can Kitty Hawk’s Cora take you? With an immense improvement in battery weights and capacities, Cora can fly at a top speed of nearly 200km per hour and a range of 100km. And, the fuselage itself has come a long way from the flying contraption unveiled by Kitty Hawk last year.
Instead it meets expectations of a Jetson-esque future, with smooth curves, and a wingspan of 12 metres, flying short distances from perhaps the edge of the city to work in the CBD.
Kitty Hawk still has to go through handling of all the necessary steps to go live, from the manufacture of the taxis to developing a mobile app that the clients will use to request a pickup. In the meantime, Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, has confirmed that in 3 years New Zealand will be one of the first countries in the world to have a fleet of flying taxis.