March 13, 2018 12:26:13by

Cora flying taxi could be in service in New Zealand by 2021

Cora flying taxi could be in service in New Zealand by 2021

Google founder Larry Page has unveiled incredible footage of his flying taxi, Cora.

Cora will take take to the skies in 2021 and act as an 'Uber for the skies', according to Kitty Hawk, the company behind the electric vertical take off and landing vehicle.

Built with funding from Page, the craft is designed to use self-flying software, which controls its 12 fans to provide lift-off and forward thrust - without the need for a runway.

Once airborne, a single rear propeller pushes Cora through the air at speeds of up to 110 mph (180 kph) at altitudes between 500 and 3,000 feet (150 and 910 metres).

New Zealand's government is officially announcing an agreement to test the vehicles, revealed for the first time in stunning footage, in the country. 

Cora was created by Kitty Hawk, run by former Google X head Sebastian Thrun and named after the town in North Carolina where the Wright brothers completed their first controlled flight.

The firm hopes to use New Zealand as its base of operations for testing out the next generation of vehicles to push the envelope of aviation technology. 

In a statement accompanying the launch video, the company appeared to take a swipe at regulations in the US, which have prevented the vehicle being tested there.

'A path to certifying an air taxi for everyday use just didn’t exist. We had our aircraft. We had our moment. But there was no place in the world where Cora could take the next step. We had no Kitty Hawk of our own,' the statement read.

'America in the early 20th century of the Wright Brothers was a hotbed of invention and discovery. We needed a place that was just as bold and dynamic in order to bring Cora to the commercial market.'

Kitty Hawk shipped its first air taxi to New Zealand in October 2017, where initial tests began shortly after. Talks have reportedly been ongoing with the government for the past 18 months. 

The project is being run by Zephyr Airworks, formerly known as Zee.Aero, one of two firms funded by Page to develop flying cars.

Users will one day be able to use an app being designed by the company to let hail a Cora, in a similar manner to an Uber.

Cora has a range of around 62 miles (100 km) and is designed to accommodate two passengers. It has a wing span of 36 feet (11 m).

Cora has three flight computers that operate independently, meaning it can continue to navigate if one of them fails. The vehicle also has a parachute for emergency landing if disaster strikes.

Speaking about approaching the New Zealand government Zephyr CEO, Fred Reid, said: 'We had no idea what to expect. They could have laughed us out of the room. 

'We were pitching something that sounded like science fiction.' 

Dr Peter Crabtree, of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), added: 'In New Zealand, we know we can’t keep using the same old approaches to meet our future challenges. 

'We saw Cora’s potential as a sustainable, efficient and transformative technology that can enrich people’s lives, not only in New Zealand, but ultimately the whole world.'

News of Page's ambitions for building a flying car first emerged in 2016, after reports he had personally provided £70 million ($100 million) to two startups developing the technology. 

He had been funding Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, formerly rival companies based in California's Silicon Valley. 

Zee.Aero was set up in 2010, working on a small, all-electric plane that could take off and land vertically – essentially a flying car. 

While there was much speculation that the company was affiliated to Google, as their headquarters were next door, Zee.Aero fiercely denied the claims.

However, it has since been revealed that Zee.Aero does not belong to Google or its holding company, Alphabet. Instead, it belongs to directly to Page. 

Page had demanded that his involvement stay hidden from the public, according to ten people with intimate knowledge of the company who spoke to  Bloomberg Businessweek at the time.

In 2015 a second competing flying-car startup called Kitty Hawk, also began operations in its headquarters close to Google's.

Kitty Hawk's president is Sebastian Thrun, th­e head of Google's self-driving car programme and the founder of its research division, Google X.

Despite the apparent rivalry between the companies, Bloomberg reported that Page has in fact been putting money into both Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk.