Testing of world-first self-piloted air taxi in Canterbury

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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.

Kitty Hawk's intent is to have the aircraft certified for fully autonomous operation by launch, which it hopes will happen sometime around 2021 once it completes testing with New Zealand, its first partner on the government and regulatory side. The goal, according to a report from the New York Times, is to have a network of commercial air taxis up and flying over new New Zealand within three years. 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.

Range: Initially about 62 miles / about 100 kilometres.

Kitty Hawk is run by former Google X head Sebastian Thrun, while Cora's initial blog post makes out New Zealand as its base to make a future "where the freedom of flight belongs to everyone" in the same way that the Wright Brothers initially took off in North Carolina.

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Kitty Hawk previously revealed its "Flyer" aircraft, which was more like a hovercraft crossed with a jet ski, and which it intends to sell to individuals in the recreational vehicle market.

The company has secretly been testing their "flying cars" since October 2017 in the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island.

After operating in the Kiwi shadows, Kitty Hawk has finally made its existence public. Flying cars are also proving to be big hits at auto shows - Airbus and Audi unveiled a concept at this year's Geneva Motor Show, alongside the Pal-V Liberty autogyro. The Porsche board member responsible for sales and marketing talked to us at Geneva about a potential flying Porsche, part of the company's Strategy 2025 that looks at how Porsche's sports cars will fit into the future of transportation.