Kitty Hawk Cora air taxi takes flight in New Zealand
The recent history of flying taxis, air taxis, passenger drones, flying cars — call them what you will — has model-by-model been a case of ‘it’s going to be up and running and in the air soon’ every year for about the last 10 years.
But the Kitty Hawk Cora looks a likely candidate, and it’s undergoing testing right now next door to us, in New Zealand.
Backing the Kitty Hawk company is Larry Page, one of the co-founders of Google. In 2016 the Kitty Hawk company established Zephyr Airworks, set up to test Kitty Hawk aircraft in New Zealand.
Kitty Hawk shipped the first Cora over to NZ in October 2017, and it has been under test since then. The Cora is just one of the craft Kitty Hawk have under development, but is the only one under test right now in New Zealand.
That test program is under the watchful eyes and (air) regulations of the New Zealand Government, along with the co-operation of New Zealand Maori/iwi, business partners, and the community.
So what exactly is the Kitty Hawk Cora?
I mentioned up top of the article that it’s still up in the air (sorry) what this class of flying machine will be called. In this case, let’s just say that the Kitty Hawk Cora could be said to be the result of when an aeroplane and a helicopter love each other very, very much.
The Cora carries two people, is powered by an electric engine, can lift-off vertically using its 12 independent lift fans, and, once in the air, is pushed along by a single propeller. It can reach speeds of up to 180 kilometres per hour, flies at heights of 500 to 3000 feet, and on a full battery charge in its current iteration it has a flight range of up to 100 kilometres.
It is also self-piloting, so at this stage of its development a pilot’s licence is not needed. This may of course change should the Cora be given the tick for commercial use.
The fixed wing has a span of 11 metres. The importance of the rotors being independent is that if one, or some, fail, the remaining rotors can keep the Cora aloft. And speaking of redundancy, the Cora is operated by three independent flight-computers, so it can operate safely if one is subjected to a blue-sky-blue-screen-of-fail. And a final note on redundancy, in the case of engine or complete lift fan failure, a parachute will deploy and get the Cora safely to ground.
Kitty Hawk and Zephyr Airworks have obtained an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and are working with the CAA on further accreditation for moving beyond testing the Cora.
When might the Cora be available for use by the public?
Again, as with others in this category, this is the big question. To be fair to Kitty Hawk, it is staying pretty low-key on this:
We are not putting timeframes around when Cora will be available for public flight. We have a lot of work to do and we are working constructively with regulatory authorities. We are looking forward to being able to share our product with the New Zealand public when the time is right.
Kitty Hawk has also said that the Cora will not go on sale to individuals, rather it “will be a part of a service similar to an airline or a rideshare.”