Self-driving cars make headlines quite often these days – usually not for good reasons. While advancements to the technology are made all the time, self-driving cars seem to struggle still. The same isn’t entirely accurate for self-flying planes. While it may look like perfecting self-driving cars would be easier, it’s unmanned air-crafts that are making big strides at the moment.
Kitty Hawk aviation pouncing at you
Kitty Hawk is a US company, and it is leading the charge at the moment. The company is building a line of self-flying air taxis – their flagship model is the Cora. Relatively small, it is a hybrid of plane and drone. 12 rotors allow it to take off vertically like a drone while otherwise flying like a plane.
Kitty Hawk was partially founded by Larry Page (one of Google’s co-founders) and performed much of its testing in New Zealand. The US-company ran into some issues getting approval for tests in US airspace initially. By now, the company not only received approval from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to test in a limited area in Hollister, California but also received millions in grant money from the US government.
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The DIUx (Defense Innovation Unit Experimental) is a Pentagon organization that is responsible for supporting emerging technologies that could be used by the US military. While Kitty Hawk’s vision for their Cora is one of efficient personal transportation, the US military is, of course, more interested in alternative applications for the technology.
Funding for Cora
That is why, along with another company, Kitty Hawk received the majority of a $2 million grant for their Cora. That is in addition to over $100 million of additional funding the company raised this February. For air taxi uses, the Cora is set to have a top speed of 110mph and a range of 62 miles with a battery life of 19 minutes (as well as 10 minutes of backup time for emergencies).
The FAA application cites slightly different stats – speeds of 150mph and 48 miles range to be precise. Either way, the aircraft will be capable of carrying 400lbs at up to 10.000 feet. At the moment it won’t be flying that high though – the FAA permit only allows it to fly up to 200 feet.
Additional restrictions were placed on the Cora as well. While it is allowed to fly without a pilot, one has to stand by and supervise from the ground. Additionally, Kitty Hawk has to provide a chase car or chase plane to shadow the Cora.Cora air taxi taking off (GIF)
Partially because of the tight restrictions, and partly because of cost, a large part of Kitty Hawk’s work and testing is still taking place in New Zealand. This is also where Kitty Hawk is going to start their commercial service.
That’s right – a commercial air taxi service is already planned to launch. While no further details are known at this point, the Cora is all but ready, which means that it might not be all that long until some lucky folks get to experience air taxis…at least in New Zealand.
YouTube: Meet Cora
Photo credit: All images used have been provided by Kitty Hawk for press usage.