After nearly eight years of development, Cora, the prototype air taxi from California-based Kitty Hawk that uses vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), has been officially unveiled.
Cora was developed with a familiar motivation to like-minded companies. Kitty Hawk wanted to rethink and reimagine how people got around, and the answer was an electric, self-piloted air taxi that is currently performing test flights in New Zealand.
The secretive project was initially helmed by a company called Zephyr Airworks. Only recently did the industry find out that Zephyr was a code name for Kitty Hawk’s operations in New Zealand.
Kitty Hawk is led by the man who has been called the "father of self-driving cars," Sebastian Thrun, the former director of Google's autonomous car division. The company is personally financed by Google co-founder Larry Page.
According to the company, the design's impact is two-fold: the all-electric design is sustainable, and the craft is autonomous, so you don't actually need to know how to fly.
Right now, the Cora is a two-seater designed to operate quietly over short distances. According to the company, it can fly faster than 93 mph (150 km/h), but it only has a range of 62 miles. It has a wingspan of 36 feet, with 12 battery-powered rotors attached to the wings.
Kitty Hawk reached an agreement with New Zealand’s Central Aviation Authority to test the autonomous aircraft with the hope of certifying a fleet ready to take off as soon as 2021 commercially.
New Zealand officials are excited about the prospect of an all-electric commercial air taxi service, especially as the country tries to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.