Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Google Co-Founder's Flying Taxi Takes To The Skies In New Zealand

Solar Impulse 2 Lands In Silicon Valley After Pacific Crossing Cora was founded and developed by Silicon Valley based Kitty Hawk
Jerome Frank | 14 March, 2018, 06:19

Google co-founder Larry Page and now the chief executive of Google's parent Alphabet is financing a company, Kitty Hawk, run by Sebastian Thrun, who helped start Google's autonomous auto unit as the director of GoogleX.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern confirmed the news to the Times, saying the project is "about sending the message to the world that our doors are open for people with great ideas who want to turn them into reality".

Known as Cora, the electric aircraft has a dozen small lift rotors on its wings, making it capable of vertical take-off and landing like a helicopter.

According to Kitty Hawk, the Cora has a range of about 60 miles (100 kilometers) on one charge, can travel up to 110 mph (180 km/h), and has an operational altitude between 500 and 3,000 feet (150 to 910 meters).

Both parties are hopeful that this will lead to a network of flying taxis in New Zealand within the next three years. Trials for the new mode of transportation will take six years, and be based around the city of Christchurch.

"Cora has the potential to transform spaces like rooftops and parking lots into places to take off right from your neighborhood", said Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun (who previously ran Google's self-driving auto project), said the first thing officials asked was how they could make the regulatory process faster for Kitty Hawk. The plane's launch and test run were showcased in a YouTube video published by Kitty Hawk.

A number of rival companies have been laying the groundwork for air taxis. That means that the rules it develops may become a template for other nations, including the United States. Airbus has also made an investment two weeks ago in Blade, which is an aviation start-up in NY. And of course Uber has an entire division called Uber Elevate.

Zephyr CEO Fred Reid said New Zealand is devoted to clean energy.

Kitty Hawk has been testing its Cora flying taxi since October 2017 in New Zealand.

But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and vehicle parks as landing pads.

It has been clear for several years that improvements in batteries, electric motors, and software would make it possible to build a vehicle like this. Bonus points: The Kitty Hawk taxis will be autonomous.

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