The flying taxi from Wisk, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, is preparing to take off,media outlet The Verge reported. The company announced on Tuesday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the New Zealand government to use cora, its all-electric, self-driving flying taxi, for a pilot project. Following the agreement, the company said it would begin planning a pilot passenger project, which will take place in Canterbury. Canterbury is an area of New Zealand’s South Island. Wisk must also be certified by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority for Cora before he can be allowed to fly.
Kitty Hawk is a secret flight car company founded in 2016, funded by Google co-founder Larry Page and sponsored by Sebastian Thrun, AI and robotics expert at Stanford University. The latter created Google’s self-driving car division. It starts with an aircraft called the Flyer and then expands to include a two-seater taxi, Cora.
In March 2018, Kitty Hawk officially announced that it would partner with Air New Zealand to launch a flying taxi service in the country. But it lacks Cora’s main manufacturing partner, so the company is partnering with Boeing, which is also developing its own electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
The aim of the partnership is to provide a flying taxi service to Cora in the future, which will reportedly be called through an app. The plan is to enable the vehicle to self-drive. It will fly primarily with the autonomous driving system and will be supervised by a manual pilot in the distance. A key element of the partnership with Boeing is the company’s NeXt division, which focuses on the way autonomous driving and drones safely share airspace.
But despite Cora’s rapid growth, Flyer has run into obstacles. Kitty Hawk initially came up with the idea of a single-seat battery-powered aircraft designed to be used on low-altitude water. As Forbes reported, the project was plagued by “technical and safety issues with Flyer and unresolved issues related to its actual use.” A few days after the story, Kitty Hawk announced that Cora would be included in a joint venture called Wisk Aero. The company says it has completed “more than 1,000” test flights in the past few years.
When the Cora project was divested from Kitty Hawk, the Page-backed team was working on a new aircraft called Heaviside – with eight rotors that could power its vertical take-off and landing capabilities, apparently 100 times slower than the helicopter.