An autonomous drone passenger plane is currently seeking approval to carry passengers in New Zealand.
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Ever since Wilbur and Orville Wright made history on December 17th, 1903, with the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven airplane, people have dreamed of flying taxis. From the Jetsons cartoon to affordable air taxis and on-demand air travel, many have tried to make that dream a reality. Now personal aviation company Kitty Hawk, backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, has announced that its autonomous passenger-drone is ready to begin the regulatory approval process in New Zealand.
The company’s two-person craft is called the Cora, and is a 12-rotor plane-drone hybrid. The craft can take off vertically like a drone, and uses a propeller to power the plane forward at up to 110 miles an hour. The plane, which is all-electric, can fly for around 62 miles on a single charge. Its small size and ability to take off vertically makes the drone perfect for short trips within cities and towns, possibly operating as an air taxi from rooftops and parking lots. Kitty Hawk chose New Zealand as its testing ground partly because of the country’s commitment to technological innovation and sustainable energy – 80 percent of the country is powered by renewable energy. According to Dr Peter Crabtree, of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, “In New Zealand … We saw Cora’s potential as a sustainable, efficient and transformative technology that can enrich people’s lives, not only in New Zealand, but ultimately the whole world.”
Kitty Hawk expects the approval process to take around three years, and is already working on an app and ride hailing technology. They are also including expert human supervision, three independent flight systems, and a parachute. Will autonomous drone planes change the way we all commute and travel?