Health Care

Larry Page aims for air taxis in New Zealand

Larry Page aims for air taxis in New Zealand

Since October, a mysterious flying object has been seen moving through the skies over the South Island of New Zealand.

It is expected that people would eventually use the flying vehicle called Cora, for short trips they typically take by auto, to combat the growing problem of vehicle congestion on the ground. He began Google's self-driving vehicle initiative, which turned into Alphabet's Waymo. This is an altogether different project from the one you might have seen past year in a viral video of a single-pilot recreational aircraft that was being tested over water, and it's much more ambitious. As an air taxi, Cora models wouldn't be for sale. That's what Page is trying to do.

Zephyr Airworks, the parent company of Page's Silicon Valley startup called Kitty Hawk, said it is building and testing "all-electric vertical take-off and landing products" in New Zealand.

The company has been pitching the air taxi privately since 2016, finally choosing New Zealand as its R&D and certification location as well as its launch market due to the country's large support of renewable energy and electric vehicles as well as its accommodating airspace regulations. Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun (who previously ran Google's self-driving vehicle project), said the first thing officials asked was how they could make the regulatory process faster for Kitty Hawk.

That's a far cry from another device Kitty Hawk unveiled in April 2017, called the Flyer, which looked more like a cross between a Jet Ski and a giant, store-bought quadcopter.

Federal Aviation Administration rules would have made it hard to get a project like this off the ground in the United States.

"A place that could be more than just a willing airfield". Trials for the new mode of transportation will take six years, and be based around the city of Christchurch. This means that the rules it develops may become an example for other nations, including the US.

There are also some rival companies which have been laying the groundwork for air taxis. Boeing bought Aurora Flight Sciences, Airbus made an investment in Blade, and Uber is already working on the same idea with Uber Elevate. Airbus made an investment two weeks ago in Blade, an aviation startup in NY.

The mystery of what has been going on in New Zealand has quietly created a stir among those in the know.

Now, according to The New York Times, Kitty Hawk will on Tuesday announce it has reached an agreement with the government of New Zealand to test its aircraft in order to get officially certified for flying in the country. Before that, he was president of Delta Air Lines and president of Lufthansa Airlines, where he was co-architect of the Star Alliance.

It has been clear for several years that improvements in batteries, electric motors, and software would make it possible to build a vehicle like this. But while Kitty Hawk appears to be getting off the ground, we reckon it'll have quite the task on its hands if it wants to persuade people to put their lives in the hands of what is essentially an oversize drone.