Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

Kitty Hawk is testing electric self-flying taxis in New Zealand

"Cora", developed by Larry Page's Kitty Hawk company, is an electric aircraft intended for use as part of a transportation service instead of sale to individual users.

Now, it would seem that Cora and the company behind it are nearly ready for prime time, as Kitty Hawk and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced that an agreement has been reached that will see Kitty Hawk's portfolio officially tested for certification.

The combination of electric power, self-piloting software and vertical take-off pioneers a new way to fly. It has a 62-mile range and room on board for two passengers. The first model is called Cora, and it's a cross between a drone and an airplane, design-wise.

This time around, though, Kitty Hawk's ambitions are bigger.

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What's the difference between a plane and an flying taxi?

In an email exchange with New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern, the New York Times reported that the air taxi is looking to operate commercial flights in three years - serendipitously coinciding with the timing of the launch of UberAir in Dubai.

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. Kitty Hawk's operations in New Zealand, however, is being led by Zephyr Networks, whose chief executive is Fred Reid, founding CEO of Virgin America.

Once it's in the air, a single propeller drives Cora at about 110 miles per hour, between altitudes of 500 and 3,000 feet. The vehicles more often look like small planes than flying cars. Alphabet's own Waymo has been betting on putting autonomous vehicles on public roads, while Uber is hedging its bets with both autonomous driving options and air taxis, though both of those are still years away from being fully commercialized.

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