Larry Page-Backed Company Tests Its New Flying Taxi in New Zealand

Larry Page Tests Flying Taxi in New Zealand

The company has been pitching the air taxi privately since 2016, finally choosing New Zealand as its R&D and certification location as well as its launch market due to the country's large support of renewable energy and electric vehicles as well as its accommodating airspace regulations.

And New Zealand appears pretty keen to have Kitty Hawk flying around its country, presumably because its bored of being known as a nation full of sheep, hills and Hobbiton.

Under the name Zephyr Airworks, California startup Kitty Hawk has been testing an air taxi prototype in New Zealand since October, SBS News reported Tuesday.

The aircraft uses self-flying software and 12 lift fans for a vertical take-off and landing, so a runway is not required. Now it turns out Google founder Larry Page has been working on his own flying taxi, largely in secret and away from any press coverage.

Of course, Kitty Hawk isn't the only company doing such work. The Cora finds Kitty Hawk's vision coming to life.

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. Cora looks a bit like a tiny, one-seater airplane, but its wings are studded with small, upward-facing propellers that allow it to take off and land vertically.

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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).

Imagine starting a network of autonomous air taxis, as Uber is planning to, but long before Uber actually does.

Back here in the United States, the move stands as a major challenge for our regulators, in particular the Federal Aviation Administration.

Kitty Hawk's first publicly revealed air taxi, Cora, is a fully autonomous and electric machine. The rather diminutive craft has room for just a couple of people on board and has been seen in the skies over New Zealand doing tests in recent months.

It hopes to make the vehicles commercially available in New Zealand within three years.

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