New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce a new agreement with a company funded by Google co-founder Larry Page to test autonomous air taxis for official certification in the country, reports The New York Times. Kitty Hawk, the company that builds autonomous aircraft, has aspirations that the association will lead to a commercial network of taxis in the country in the next three years. According to reports, Kitty Hawk is already working on an application similar to Uber that will allow customers to call one of their air taxis.
In an email to the NYT, said Ardern; "We have an ambitious goal in New Zealand to have zero net carbon by 2050 … exciting projects like this are part of how we make that happen." The self-guided air taxi from Kitty Hawk is called Cora, which has a wingspan of 36 feet and operates through a dozen battery-operated rotors. It takes off like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, is 100 percent electric, can fly as fast as 110 mph, has a flight distance of 62 miles and can carry two passengers. Kitty Hawk said she sent her first air taxi to New Zealand in October 2017, with initial tests starting soon after.
Kitty Hawk says she chose New Zealand as a launch pad for Cora because the country has a dynamic economy and its Central Aviation Authority has "the respect of the global regulatory community." (Zephyr Airworks is the operator of Kitty Hawk in New Zealand). According to reports, the talks had continued for 18 months, with the participation of several government agencies.
Photo: Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk is also known for its other "flying cars", which include an all-electric aircraft designed to operate over water and that does not require a pilot's license to operate. While the concept of an air taxi is nothing new, there has been no substantial progress in the commercialization of a fleet for consumer use. As previously reported, at least 19 companies are developing air taxi plans that include Boeing, Airbus, Uber, Bell Helicopter, Joby Aviation and Volocopter. In particular, Uber is working on an air taxi service that it expects to pilot in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai by 2020. Dubai began testing unmanned manned taxis in September, and has a goal for autonomous transport to the account. for a quarter of the total trips for 2030.