Kitty Hawk reveals new Cora air taxi


Google co-founder Larry Page’s aviation start-up has unveiled its first project – new air-taxi prototype named Cora.

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.

The thirteen-rotor aircraft is capable of vertical lift and of fixed wing flight. Cora will use 12 lift rotors on the wings to take off and land vertically and will use a single propeller to power its fixed-wing flight.

Early specifications show that the fully-autonomous aircraft is capable of reaching a top speed of 110mph and have a flight range of approximately 62 miles. Cora can also fly at altitudes of between 500 to 3,000 feet and is to be powered by a fully electric engine.

The air taxi will operate on a ride-sharing program operated by Kitty Hawk’s Subsidiary Zephyr Airworks. Mr Page brought in Google-X founder and self-driving car expert Sebastian Thrun to act as CEO of Kitty Hawk and former Virgin America and Delta CEO Fred Reid to head up Zephyr.

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.

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. We had our aircraft. We had our moment. But there was no place in the world where Cora could take the next step.”

Where will it land?

Whilst other air-taxi projects are planning on flying in congested cities such as Dallas and Dubai, in the case of UberAir, Kitty Hawk will be flying first in the relatively New Zealand.

The company has been pitching the air taxi privately since 2016, finally choosing New Zealand as its R&D and certification location as well as its launch market due to the country’s large support of renewable energy and electric vehicles as well as its accommodating airspace regulations.

The country’s officials have backed the project, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE); New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport and; the Civil Aviation Authority now working with Kitty Hawk

Dr Peter Crabtree of New Zealand’s MBIE saw the opportunity immediately: “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.”

In an email exchange with  New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern, the New York Times reported that the air taxi is looking to operate commercial flights in three years – serendipitously coinciding with the timing of the launch of UberAir in Dubai.