Economy

Kitty Hawk autonomous flying taxi officially unveiled

Kitty Hawk autonomous flying taxi officially unveiled

The company Kitty Hawk, which operates as Zephyr Airworks in New Zealand, showed off the self-piloted electric aircraft, which looks like a cross between an aeroplane and a drone.

Google cofounder Larry Page's flying taxi project is cleared for take off.

"This is a fully electric aircraft that rises into the air like a helicopter, flies like a plane and then lands again like a helicopter", she explained. It's built to use self-flying software, and uses 12 lift fans for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) like a helicopter, so there's no need for a runway.

Kitty Hawk, the flying vehicle startup financially backed by Google cofounder Larry Page, has been quietly testing flying taxis in New Zealand.

Mr Johns says it is fitting that this part of the world hosts the trials of the electric self-piloting air taxi.

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Fixed wing flight: On a single propeller. 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. It can travel at around 110mph, and has a range of around 62 miles.

The airport company has been in discussions with the American company for some time now, supporting its search for a suitable test space for the autonomous air taxi, known as Cora. It's been testing the vehicles through a local operator called Zephyr Airworks, and Cora has an "experimental airworthiness certificate" from both New Zealand and USA aviation authorities.

Dr Peter Crabtree of New Zealand's MBIE saw the opportunity immediately: "In New Zealand, we know we can't keep using the same old approaches to meet our future challenges". Kitty Hawk and other companies now pursuing autonomous electric taxi services still face significant regulatory hurdles in the U.S. before the unique business models can become a reality.

The next phase of prototype testing is being carried out in New Zealand.


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