It’s called Cora, and it takes off like a helicopter before flying like a plane using electric propulsion.
On the ground, there is an ongoing scramble to replace the gas-guzzling cars we drive with electric alternatives, remove the need to drive them ourselves, and even to own them once self-driving ridesharing becomes a reality. Meanwhile, Google’s Larry Page has been funding a company that will bypass all of that.
The company is called Kitty Hawk, and it just revealed Cora, a prototype air taxi that takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane, and uses electric propulsion. You’d think such a flying vehicle would require a pilot’s license to operate, but that’s not the case. Cora is self-piloting, meaning anyone can jump in and use it. Just as importantly, it’s quiet during flight.
As The New York Times reports, Kitty Hawk has been flying Cora over the South Island of New Zealand since October last year. The air taxi looks like a small single-seater plane, but then you notice the wings are covered in a dozen small propellers and there’s a surprising lack of noise on take-off.
Cora is capable of traveling at up to 110mph (180km/s) with a range of 62 miles (100km) carrying two passengers. That may seem low, but Cora can fly in a straight line directly to a destination unlike vehicles limited to using busy road networks.
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. Kitty Hawk has the agreement of the government to test Cora there and everyone involved hopes it will lead to the first commercial network of flying taxis.
Kitty Hawk’s success is a wake-up call to other companies. In the air, Boeing and Airbus are expected to compete, while on the ground Uber is already thinking about taking to the skies with Uber Elevate. For now though, Kitty Hawk looks to be in the best position. The company has a working air taxi, an agreement to test it openly, and the goal of a commercial service in the near future. After that, the focus will surely turn to brining Cora to the US.