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Google guru tests flying taxis in New Zealand

14 March 2018

Both parties are hopeful that this will lead to a network of flying taxis in New Zealand within the next three years.

Until now, you wouldn't know the air taxis in New Zealand had anything to do with Page: The planes operate there in what has been a covert project, under a company called Zephyr Airworks. Having government officials willing to support Cora probably helps, too.

Kitty Hawk commended the country's forward-looking regulatory environment and vision. That's exactly what any company wants to hear. 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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Mr Johns says it is fitting that this part of the world hosts the trials of the electric self-piloting air taxi.

Meet "Cora", the fully autonomous electric "air taxi" that flies like a helicopter at speeds of up to 177 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour), transporting up to two people between 150 meters and 915 meters (500 and 3,000 feet) above ground.

Perhaps most impressive? Cora is a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) machine.

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Federal Aviation Administration rules would have made it hard to get a project like this off the ground in the United States. For those unfamiliar, Kitty Hawk is a startup that is reported to have been funded by Alphabet's Larry Page.

On a blog post on the Cora website, the company highlighted the certification issues that prevented the aircraft from being brought out of the R&D process, saying: "A path to certifying an air taxi for everyday use just didn't exist". But aviation regulators in the rest of the world do not see those countries as models. Boeing bought Aurora Flight Sciences, Airbus made an investment in Blade, and Uber is already working on the same idea with Uber Elevate. This means that the rules it develops may become an example for other nations, including the US.

In an interview, Reid said the opportunity to use New Zealand as the first place to commercialize the autonomous taxi service was a step-change in the advancement of the sector.

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

Google guru tests flying taxis in New Zealand