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Here's Our First Look at Kitty Hawk's Ambitious Autonomous Air Taxi

Gizmodo logo Gizmodo 14/03/2018 Sam Rutherford

a large air plane on a runway at an airport © Photo: Kitty Hawk While the rest of us are still waiting for self-driving cars to become available, Google cofounder Larry Page and self-driving car pioneer Sebastian Thrun are already working on the Next Big Thing™ with Cora, the pilot-less air taxi from the ambitiously named Kitty Hawk aircraft company.

Unlike a lot of other flying car concepts, the Cora sports a total of 12 fans spread across its wings that allow it to take off and land vertically, just like a helicopter or Harrier jet. Then, once the plane is in the air, the Cora has a single large propeller for horizontal flight that can propel the aircraft up to 110 miles-per-hour with at a max altitude of around 3,000 feet.

Pipe dream or not, the Cora looks pretty cool.

The craziest thing about all this is that Kitty Hawk is planning to make the Cora fully operational without the need for a pilot or even a pilot’s license. Kitty Hawk is even working with New Zealand’s government to test and certify the Cora for full autonomous flight before its official launch, which is optimistically slated for sometime in 2021.

However, with a wingspan of just 36-feet, the Cora isn’t exactly small enough to play nicely in normal-sized parking lots. Additionally, its electric motors only have enough juice to carry it about 60 miles, though since it can fly directly from point to point, instead of being forced to follow roads like our archaic four-wheeled vehicles, concerns about range may be less severe.

According to Kitty Hawk, this two-seat autonomous air taxi will come with three redundant flight computers that can control the Cora in the event of an equipment failure. If things go really bad, the plane will have an emergency parachute, too.

Kitty Hawk hasn’t provided a figure for how much each plane will cost to build, or how much the company is planning to charge for a flight. But thanks to support from the New Zealand government and a partnership with Zephyr Airworks to help operate its fleet, Kitty Hawk might be the closest company to making “flying cars” something people can actually get excited about—only, don’t let yourself get too worked up about it just yet.

Flying cars always seem to be right around the corner, but just in the last few years, we’ve seen vaporware like the Aeromobil get announced alongside other ventures like Uber Elevate’s ridiculous flying taxi project, which has also struggled to get off the ground.

Humans have fantasized about flying cars in one form or another since the 1920s. But here we are—it’s 2018 and we’re still waiting for the tech, infrastructure, and laws to catch up and free the masses from having to cruise around on asphalt.

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