The design is known as the Cora aircraft, a hybrid vertical take-off, and landing creation. Cora can also fly at altitudes of between 500 to 3,000 feet and is to be powered by a fully electric engine.
"Zephyr Airworks came here because of the ease of doing business in New Zealand, our safety-focused regulatory environment, our culture of ingenuity and our vision for clean technologies and future transport alternatives". The company, which is operating in New Zealand through a company called Zephyr Airworks, has been in discussions with New Zealand regulators for a year and a half, and it hopes to start a commercial flying taxi service in as soon as three years.
"Let's not forget this part of the world is where Richard Pearse first pioneered flying, something we honour with a sculpture within our airport terminal, so it's great to see this bold thinking being revealed here too", he says. Small and effective, the Cora features a range of around 62 miles on a single charge. 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 U.S. aviation authorities. Mr Page brought in Google-X founder and self-driving vehicle expert Sebastian Thrun to act as CEO of Kitty Hawk and former Virgin America and Delta CEO Fred Reid to head up Zephyr. Kitty Hawk and other companies now pursuing autonomous electric taxi services still face significant regulatory hurdles in the USA before the unique business models can become a reality.
"Cora is the beginning of a journey towards everyday flight, where air travel will be woven into our daily lives", the creators said in a statement. 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. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway.
Kitty Hawk is led by Sebastian Thrun, a former Google scientist who worked on the company's self-driving cars and Google Glass.