Google guru Page tests fly­ing taxis in New Zealand

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Business -

PI­LOT- less fly­ing taxis are be­ing tested in New Zealand as part of a project backed by Google co-founder Larry Page that sup­port­ers say will rev­o­lu­tion­ize per­sonal trans­port.

New Zealand reg­u­la­tors late Tues­day ap­proved plans for Ze­phyr Air­works, a sub­sidiary of Page’s com­pany Kitty Hawk, to de­velop and test the fu­tur­is­tic air taxis.

Known as Cora, the elec­tric air­craft has a dozen small lift ro­tors on its wings, mak­ing it ca­pa­ble of ver­ti­cal take­off and land­ing like a he­li­copter. But devel­op­ers say it is much qui­eter, mean­ing it could trans­port pas­sen­gers in ur­ban ar­eas us­ing rooftops and car parks as land­ing pads.

“We are of­fer­ing a pol­lu­tion free, emis­sion free ve­hi­cle that flies de­pend­ably; we think this is the log­i­cal next step in the evo­lu­tion of trans­porta­tion,” Ze­phyr Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Fred Reid said.

The Cora pro­to­type be­ing tested on New Zealand’s South Is­land uses three on­board com­put­ers to cal­cu­late its flight path and is ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing two pas­sen­gers.

The com­put­ers op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently as a safety mea­sure, and the air­craft can de­ploy a para­chute if any­thing goes wrong.

The air­craft, pre­vi­ously known as Zee. Aero, has a range of 100 kilo­me­ters (62 miles), reach­ing speeds of 150 kmh and an al­ti­tude of up to 900 me­ters (3,000 feet).

The Cora project en­vis­ages they will be­come so com­mon that “air travel will be wo­ven into our daily lives.”

Ze­phyr said us­ing them would be a sim­ple ex­pe­ri­ence for pas­sen­gers. “You wouldn’t have to know any­thing about fly­ing a plane. Cora could fly for you,” it said in a pro­mo­tional video. “And it would be all-elec­tric, help­ing to build a sus­tain­able world.” Page’s com­pany is also de­vel­op­ing a pro­to­type per­sonal air­craft called the Kitty Hawk Flyer and un­veiled an early model in the United States last year.

How­ever, it looked more like a recre- ational play­thing than a fly­ing car, suit­able only for fly­ing above wa­ter and seat­ing the pi­lot in an open top cabin ex­posed to the el­e­ments. Cora ap­pears far more ro­bust and is de­signed more like a tra­di­tional air­craft, fea­tur­ing an 11-me­ter (36-foot) wing­span, tail and a closed canopy for pas­sen­gers.

The air­craft will not be of­fered for sale; in­stead, the pub­lic must book trips like they would with an air­line or taxi ser­vice.

Ze­phyr said it would op­er­ate in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to a car ride-share -- with Uber the best known ex­am­ple -- and is re­port­edly work­ing on an app so cus­tomers could hail the air taxis on their mo­bile phones.

It said Cora took eight years to de­sign but then devel­op­ers needed a suit­able en­vi­ron­ment to safely test the new tech­nol­ogy.

They set­tled on New Zealand be­cause of its un­con­gested airspace and rig­or­ous reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment, with Reid say­ing lo­cal of­fi­cials had em­braced the idea.

“We had no idea what to ex­pect,” he said. “They could have laughed us out of the room. We were pitch­ing some­thing that sounded like sci­ence fic­tion.”

Cora has been given an ex­per­i­men­tal air­wor­thi­ness cer­tifi­cate from the New Zealand Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity.

Tri­al­ing the fly­ing taxi ser­vice will re­port­edly take six years, with op­er­a­tions based around the city of Christchurch.

“This air­craft rep­re­sents the evo­lu­tion of the trans­port eco sys­tem to one that re­sponds to a global chal­lenge around traf­fic and con­ges­tion and is kin­der to the planet,” Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said.

Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998, start­ing out in a Sil­i­con Val­ley garage and trans­form­ing into one of the world’s largest com­pa­nies. He re­mains chief ex­ec­u­tive of Google’s par­ent Al­pha­bet, but the Kitty Hawk and Cora projects are a per­sonal pur­suit, not part of the tech gi­ant’s op­er­a­tions.

Ze­phyr Air­works in New Zealand shows a ‘Cora’ elec­tric-pow­ered air taxi in flight. Self-pi­loted fly­ing taxis are be­ing tested in New Zealand as part of a project backed by Google co-founder Larry Page that sup­port­ers say will rev­o­lu­tion­ize per­sonal trans­port.

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