Google founder Larry Page's flying taxi takes flight

Mar 14, 2018, 06:17
Google founder Larry Page's flying taxi takes flight

It first made major headlines in 2017 with a video showing a large, piloted drone capable of landing on water, but the company has obviously pivoted away considerably into the flying taxi market.

Kitty Hawk isn't just planning to build a new kind of aircraft; it's also planning to launch an air taxi service, starting in New Zealand.

Kitty Hawk, the secretive flying-car startup that's funded by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, has finally taken the wraps off its flying taxi, which it calls Cora. The two-passenger electric vehicle takes off vertically like a drone, and can then fly horizontally at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, with a range of 62 miles.

Kitty Hawk was rumoured to be pitching a "flying car" prototype as far back as 2016 - when it began pitching the concept to various governments to secure backing.

Mr Page's wholly owned aviation firm Kitty Hawk - named after the Wright brothers' home town in North Carolina - has unveiled an air-taxi prototype eight-years in the making.

"Cora is self-piloting, which means that to get where you need to go, you don't need a pilot's license", says Eric Allison, Kitty Hawk's vice president for engineering.

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.

The US Federal Aviation Administration now lacks a certification basis to accept the airworthiness of such vehicles to transport fare-paying passengers.

Countries in the Middle East and Africa have been more willing to allow unmanned flights. In the event of a complete loss of power to all 12 fans, the Cora is also equipped with a parachute. That had a world class reputation in certification and regulation.

Mr Reid told New Zealand media that around 30 companies worldwide were working on similar projects, including Uber who has plans to roll out air taxi services in Los Angeles, Dallas and Dubai by 2020.

In other words, unless you live in New Zealand, don't necessarily count on climbing into an autonomous air taxi anytime soon.

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

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