Kitty Hawk reveals new Cora air taxi

Watch: Self-piloted flying taxi being tested in Christchurch

A flying vehicle startup backed by Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, has stolen a march on Uber by testing autonomous "air taxis" that could be carrying passengers by 2021.

The venture has been unveiled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, alongside Zephyr Airworks, the local operator of Kitty Hawk, which is backed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page.

The aircraft, known as Cora, has a wingspan of 12 feet with a dozen rotors all powered by batteries.

The self-flying plane can travel at speeds up to 110 miles per hour and fly 3,000 feet off the ground, the Cora website states.

What's the difference between a plane and an flying taxi?

"New Zealand's Central Aviation Authority has the respect of the worldwide regulatory community". Page has secretly worked with a company called Kitty Hawk, run by Sebastian Thrun.

Cora can carry two passengers at once, and will elevate between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground for its flights. Being electric, the air taxi is also "remarkably quiet", according to Eric Allison, Kitty Hawk's vice president of engineering.

The technology, eight years in the making, had been searching for its own Kitty Hawk, where it could test "an air taxi, affectionately named Cora, that could take off like a helicopter and transition to flying like a plane", according to the release.

There are also some rival companies which have been laying the groundwork for air taxis. That means that the rules it develops may become a template for other nations, including the United States.

In November 2017, Boeing bought Aurora Flight Sciences. Dubai formed a partnership with a Chinese company, EHang.

Zephyr CEO Fred Reid said New Zealand is devoted to clean energy. Just past year, Dubai said EHang would begin operating an autonomous flying taxi service last July.

Due to its relative isolation from other nations and long stretches of uninhabited land, New Zealand is the ideal testing ground for Kitty Hawk to prove its tech works without getting in the way of commercial planes or endangering people on the ground. Kitty Hawk said it doesn't have a specific timeline for that.

It is expected that a commercial network of flying taxis will be in operation in New Zealand in as soon as three years.

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