Larry Page's air taxis are already flying above New Zealand

Larry Page's air taxis are already flying above New Zealand

12 independent lift fans power the taxi so it can take off and land much like a helicopter, and doesn't require a runway.

Kitty Hawk unveiled the prototype Cora airtaxi on Tuesday, which it has been testing in New Zealand for the last five months.

"This is a fully electric aircraft that rises into the air like a helicopter, flies like a plane and then lands again like a helicopter", she explained.

Dr Peter Crabtree of New Zealand's MBIE saw the opportunity immediately: "In New Zealand, we know we can't keep using the same old approaches to meet our future challenges".

Mr Johns says it is fitting that this part of the world hosts the trials of the electric self-piloting air taxi. The project went by the code name Zee.Aero for a while, which Kitty Hawk said was the name of their Cora team during the development stage. Like Uber, but for "The Jetsons".

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Kitty Hawk says that Cora can fly up to 3,000 ft (915 m), has a range that's reckoned to be about 62 miles (100 km) per charge, which will make it good for short hops, and it's reported capable of getting up to 110 mph (180 km/h). It has an 11-metre wingspan and operates a single propeller. 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 USA aviation authorities.

With Cora, Kitty Hawk's real vision comes through - the startup aims to build, own and operate a fleet of these as an on-demand self-flying taxi service, beginning commercial operations in as few as three years' time.

"Designing an air taxi for everyday life means bringing the airport to you". As the New York Times explains, today the company will join with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce an agreement to test the vehicles there. "Cora has the potential to transform spaces like rooftops and parking lots into places to take off right from your neighborhood".

I've spoken to Thrun about the potential of flying "cars" in the past, and the former Google self-driving vehicle project pioneer is extremely bullish on the idea.

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