Larry Page's flying taxi service starts regulatory approval process in New Zealand

By midian182 · 7 replies
Mar 13, 2018
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  1. Back in June 2016, news broke that Google co-founder Larry Page was secretly funding two companies that were developing flying vehicles. Now, one of these firms, Kitty Hawk, is about to start testing its flying taxi service in New Zealand as part of a regulatory approval process, following an agreement with the country’s government.

    The New York Times reports that Kitty Hawk, which is run by Udacity CEO and Google X co-founder Sebastian Thrun, hopes to have a network of its electric, autonomous air taxis up and running in the country within three years. The planes have been operating covertly in New Zealand under a company called Zephyr Airworks.

    Last year, Thrun revealed the company’s hovercraft-like Flyer vehicle. More a jet ski/drone hybrid than a flying car, it was designed as a luxury toy for those who could afford one, with sales helping to fund development of the air taxi project.

    Kitty Hawk’s taxi, called Cora, has a wingspan of 36 feet and is powered by twelve battery-powered rotors. It has a drone-like vertical take-off and uses a rear propeller to reach up to 110 mph with a range of around 62 miles. It’s taken eight years to develop Cora, which can fly 3000 feet above ground and carry two passengers.

    via GIPHY

    New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce that an agreement has been reached to test Kitty Hawk’s planes as part of an official certification process. The deal follows 18 months of talks with multiple government agencies.

    Much like Uber and its planned UberAIR flying taxi service, Kitty Hawk is working on an app that lets users hail an aircraft.

    A number of companies, estimated to be at least 19, are now working on flying cars and airborne taxi services. But there are still question marks over how many people would trust them. At least Cora comes with a parachute if you suddenly need to bail out.

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  2. GeforcerFX

    GeforcerFX TS Evangelist Posts: 791   +321

    Seems like building a electric aircraft that can take off and land from a short field would be far more economical then trying to make a VTOL system. If you wanted something that could take 2 passengers 62miles @ ~100mph, takeoff and land vertically they created such a vehicle years ago, we call them helicopters.
    TomSEA likes this.
  3. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,906   +1,201

    That thing looks more toy than air taxi. I'll let others try it out first. ;-)
  4. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,164   +2,637

    I notice the stability isn't exactly ideal .... makes me wonder how long before we have our first crashes on take off ......
  5. CloudCatcher

    CloudCatcher TS Member

    We have no weather information for this takeoff, although the trees in the background seem to move little if at all (so likely light winds).
    Still, concerns regarding automated flight typically do not include flying "skills" (I.e. stability) but rather dealing with the unexpected (hitting a bird, component failure, etc.).
    TempleOrion likes this.
  6. TempleOrion

    TempleOrion TS Enthusiast Posts: 25   +18

    Distances between small communities are very large in NZ (eg farms and market towns) so I can see a small interest there, and from city dwellers wanting a quick escape to country cottages but that range is still rather short, certainly for North America, Australia, Russia et al. Only 2 seats and little cargo capacity also limits its usefulness but it's early days. Good idea to start off small in a sparsely populated nation...
  7. HyPeroxya

    HyPeroxya TS Enthusiast Posts: 53

    Wright brother s .. single passenger , extermely short range, no cargo capacity at all. Within 10 years , much larger planes, many people, cargo capability. Nothings born perfect, and battery tech needs to get better, lighter. Do they need to plug it in at the end of the Journey to recharge?
    TempleOrion likes this.
  8. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,789   +3,204

    "Kitty Hawk’s taxi, called Cora, has a wingspan of 36 feet and is powered by twelve battery-powered rotors. It has a drone-like vertical take-off and uses a rear propeller to reach up to 110 mph with a range of around 62 miles. It’s taken eight years to develop Cora, which can fly 3000 feet above ground and carry two passengers".

    With an operational radius of 31 miles :D , and a service ceiling of 3000 feet, that turd would get you laughed out of the experimental aircraft community.

    Not to mention, were you to decide to consider making it into a "flying car", how much weight you would have to add in order to articulate retractable wings, so one could, "park it on a street". By then, the range would be down to about half of what it is now. That's of course assuming it would still get off the ground at all.

    It gives one pause to wonder how much New Zealand's prime minister was paid, just to consider evaluating it.

    Try not to compare the first flight of the first powered aircraft, with today's technology. If you were to do that in a rational state of mind, you'd realize you were setting the current standards of aviation back about a century.

    As for "better batteries", that seems to something akin to dealing with the weather. "Everybody talks about the weather, and nobody does anything about it".

    Give us a shout when you get that battery issue solved.

    Well, unless they cover the wings with solar panels, and are willing to let it sit out in the sun for a couple of days, I's say if it has a 60 mile range, you have to charge the battery, after you fly about 50 miles. You know for a safety margin, in case you have to circle the field on final.

    We can't have these things falling out of the sky with dead batteries, now can we?

    BTW, I'm curious as to how you would restore a rechargeable battery to full charge, without plugging it in.

    I suppose you could have some sort of "quick change" battery pack provisions. But that would limit you to stopping at a specific service point/landing field. Then the question becomes, "how do you get to wherever you're actually going, from there"?
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018

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