Electronics

Testing of world-first self-piloted air taxi in Canterbury

Testing of world-first self-piloted air taxi in Canterbury

The flying auto company led by Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun and backed by Google co-founder Larry Page is breaking cover with a new deal that will see it test its autonomous electric air taxis with the New Zealand government, with the aim of having a commercial network ready to carry passengers within as little as three years, the New York Times reports.

As The New York Times reports, Kitty Hawk has been flying Cora over the South Island of New Zealand since October previous year.

Known as Cora, the aircraft uses a multi-rotor system to take off and land vertically without the need for a runway.

The vehicle can travel at over 93 miles per hour, and has a range of around 62 miles on a single charge.

Kitty Hawk could beat Uber in building a network of electric self-flying taxis.

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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.

Zephyr Airworks boss Fred Reid told local media there was "a really good shot of doing this in the relatively short future" and was striving to have limited services operating in New Zealand in the next three to six years.

Self-flying taxis could zip through the skies of New Zealand if Kitty Hawk has anything to do about it. Cora can also fly at altitudes of between 500 to 3,000 feet and is to be powered by a fully electric engine. The fact sheet mentions that Cora has an experimental permit with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and New Zealand regulators, but only that the company is looking forward to sharing Cora with the New Zealand public.

Kitty Hawk was rumoured to be pitching a "flying car" prototype as far back as 2016 - when it began pitching the concept to various governments to secure backing.

New Zealand is focused on becoming "net carbon zero" by the year 2050, which is why prime minister Jacinda Ardern embraced the emissions-free transportation project.