KITTY HAWK'S SELF-FLYING TAXI TAKES FLIGHT
CORA PROTOTYPE UNVEILED
March 14, 2018 By Jim Moore
Kitty Hawk, the startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, has revealed its prototype of a two-seat flying machine that requires no runway, and no pilot, and aims to revolutionize personal transportation—starting in New Zealand.
The online reveal on March 12 included a video that shows Cora, the self-flying air taxi of the future, lifting off vertically under the power of 12 electric motors, then transitioning to forward flight supported by fixed wings as a pusher prop begins to spin. Kitty Hawk Vice President of Engineering Eric Allison narrates the scenes, noting cheerfully that Cora is designed to fly itself, "which means, to get where you want to go, you don't need a pilot's license."
Kitty Hawk comes to the race to build personal air transportation with an engineering pedigree that is decidedly forward-looking. The firm established by Page is led by CEO Sebastian Thrun, who previously led a team that beat a field of 22 competitors in a robot car race organized by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the Nevada desert in 2005. That early self-driving race car was called "Stanley," a modified Volkswagen Touareg that is now in the Smithsonian's collection.
More recently, Kitty Hawk debuted a piloted, all-electric ultralight at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 2017, showing off a smaller aircraft powered by eight electric motors that is designed to fly low (up to 15 feet) over water.
Cora, designed for air taxi service and not intended for sale to individual consumers, has a different mission: landing on rooftops, or just about anywhere, and quietly whisking paying passengers to their destination with zero emissions. That's a mission that many competitors are vying to achieve, driven by well-funded Silicon Valley companies including ridesharing giant Uber, which has detailed an ambitious vision calling for flying cars, or small, electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft to be in service by 2020.