What: Cora is a 100 percent electric, emissions-free, two-seat, self-piloting flying taxi with a hornetlike fuselage.
How: Cora lifts from the ground like a helicopter courtesy of 12 lift fans located on its wings, which stretch 36 feet tip to tip. The fans appear to be integrated motor/propeller units that can change position to control lateral and pitch movements. This adds complexity to controls that some of the other flying cars out there—which typically use propellers at set angles—do not possess.
Once in the air (the craft can fly at a maximum altitude of 3,000 feet), a single large propeller speeds the aircraft along at 112 mph for about 62 miles before needing a 30-minute battery recharge.
The prototype uses three independent flight computers to provide redundancy in case of computer failure. Kitty Hawk intends to use Cora in a commercial taxi service and is developing an app that would let consumers hail it from their cellphones.
Who: Kitty Hawk is owned by Google co-founder Larry Page. (Incidentally, Page has also invested in Opener, a Palo Alto-based company that launched a fixed-wing, single-seat eVTOL called BlackFly in July 2018.) Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun helped start Google’s autonomous car unit. Fred Reid is CEO of Zephyr Airworks, Kitty Hawk’s operator in New Zealand, where Cora is being tested. Reid was the founding CEO of Virgin American and a former president of both Lufthansa and Delta Airlines.
When: Tests began on New Zealand’s South Island in October 2017, and Zephyr aims to have a commercial network operating in New Zealand in three to six years.