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.
After operating in the Kiwi shadows, Kitty Hawk has finally made its existence public. The company, financed by Google co-founder Larry Page, intends to seek official certification for the Cora, an autonomous flying taxi, with the intent of deploying a fleet of flying taxis in as little as three years.
Eight years in the making, Cora sports a series of rotors on each wing that grants it the ability to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter. Once it’s in the air, all those propellers provide more traditionally plane-like forward thrust. In keeping with 21st-century trends, it’s also fully electric with a range of about 62 miles. The cabin will seat two passengers.
As far as flying taxis go, this one’s pretty easy on the eyes.
That last part is one of the major reasons why New Zealand became the ideal spot for Kitty Hawk’s testing. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, in an email to The New York Times, explained that her country wants to become “net carbon zero” by 2050, and the Cora can help make that happen.
The New York Times also points out that New Zealand’s decision could be seen as a positive sign for other major countries like the United States. Most times you hear about flying cars, the news is coming from the Middle East or other areas that aren’t really seen as leaders in terms of aviation regulation. But New Zealand has a more careful, conservative approach to it, which could help other countries get on board if everything else proves feasible.
Flying cars, autonomous or otherwise, have picked up major traction in the last few years. Uber has been hard at work on a similar VTOL solution for the last couple years, and it hopes to have something concrete within a decade. Flying cars are also proving to be big hits at auto shows — Airbus and Audi unveiled a concept at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, alongside the Pal-V Liberty autogyro. Intel had a wild one at CES this year, too.
Hell, even Porsche is down with the idea of a flying car. The Porsche board member responsible for sales and marketing talked to us at Geneva about a potential flying Porsche, part of the company’s Strategy 2025 that looks at how Porsche’s sports cars will fit into the future of transportation.