It takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane; Google co-founder Larry Page's flying taxi could be three years from launching as part of a commercial network in New Zealand.
As reported by the New York Times, Page has been stealth testing the autonomous airborne vehicles with his company Kitty Hawk in the South Island since last October. The covert flights have been tested under local operator Zephyr Airworks.
Page's personally financed company has taken eight years to get to this point. Known as Cora, the drone-plane hybrid has a wingspan of 36 feet with 12 rotors all powered by batteries. The hope is to have an aircraft so personal and so simple that it could bring everyday trips to the sky. "Cora has the potential to transform spaces like rooftops and parking lots into places to take off right from your neighbourhood." says Kitty Hawk. It can fly at 177 kilometres per hour and around 100 kilometres with two passengers.
Kitty Hawk is currently working with the New Zealand government, businesses and local communities to make the dream of everyday flight a reality. The Times reported that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to announce an agreement to test the aircraft as part of an official certification process.
In an email to the Times, the PM said the decision to work with Kitty Hawk was "about sending the message to the world that our doors are open for people with great ideas who want to turn them into reality." She added, "We've got an ambitious target in New Zealand of being net carbon zero by 2050," and given that the Kitty Hawk vehicle is fully electric, "exciting projects like this are part of how we make that happen."