Christchurch testing ground for world's first self-piloted electric air taxi

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The startup, Kitty Hawk, envisages that flying cars will be the new norm and is financed by Google cofounder Larry Page and led by ex-Google scientist Sebastian Thrun.

Kitty Hawk isn't putting a timeframe around when Cora will be available for public flights.

As The New York Times reports, Kitty Hawk has been flying Cora over the South Island of New Zealand since October a year ago. The air taxi looks like a small single-seater plane, but then you notice the wings are covered in a dozen small propellers and there's a surprising lack of noise on take-off.

Kitty Hawk previously revealed its "Flyer" aircraft, which was more like a hovercraft crossed with a jet ski, and which it intends to sell to individuals in the recreational vehicle market. Like Uber, but for "The Jetsons". The all-electric Cora flies autonomously up to 914 metres (3,000ft) above ground, has a wingspan of 11 metres, and has been eight years in the making.

Cora is also self-piloting, can fly faster than 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) and has a range of 100 kilometers (62 miles), according to the company. 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 United States aviation authorities. Kitty Hawk is working on further certification so it can launch a commercial air taxi service.

The project was officially unveiled on Tuesday by Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister, and Fred Reid, chief executive of Zephyr Airworks.

"Designing an air taxi for everyday life means bringing the airport to you". That's why Cora can take off and land like a helicopter, eliminating the need for runways. "Cora has the potential to transform spaces like rooftops and parking lots into places to take off right from your neighborhood".

"Zephyr Airworks came here because of the ease of doing business in New Zealand, our safety-focused regulatory environment, our culture of ingenuity and our vision for clean technologies and future transport alternatives".

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