Larry Page's pilotless air taxis now flying openly in New Zealand

Aircraft

Larry Page's Kitty Hawk has been testing such a vehicle in New Zealand since late a year ago and is coming out of stealth mode, the Silicon Valley company announced Monday.

Trialling the flying taxi service will reportedly take six years, with operations based around the city of Christchurch. Financed by Google co-founder Larry Page, the company has reached an agreement with the country to test the planes for an official certification process, according to The New York Times - and aim for a commercial network in three years. 12 independent lift fans power the taxi so it can take off and land much like a helicopter, and doesn't require a runway.

Range: Initially about 62 miles / about 100 kilometres. The first model is called Cora, and it's a cross between a drone and an airplane, design-wise.

Page's involvement in Kitty Hawk was mostly secret until recently, thanks to a shell company called Zephyr Airworks.

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Kitty Hawk had previously tested another flying vehicle prototype called the "Flyer" last April.

Kitty Hawk isn't putting a timeframe around when Cora will be available for public flights.

"The dreamers from California met the visionaries from New Zealand", Kitty Hawk said in a press release that lauds New Zealand for having "a government and society with an eye to the horizon". With a 36-foot wingspan, the aircraft flies between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground at around 110 miles per hour.

Autonomous flight, and short-hop on-demand aerial transportation, are both big areas of focus for some other high-profile companies, including Uber, which is hosting its second annual conference dedicated to the idea in May, and Airbus, which has been investing in small, electric, autonomous aircraft via its own Vahanna project and through partnerships, including with automaker Audi. It looked less like a vehicle than a jet ski with wings.

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