Air New Zealand and Zephyr Airworks say they plan to work together on making autonomous electric air travel a reality for all New Zealanders.
Zephyr Airworks chief executive Fred Reid said the partnership with Air New Zealand would support the development and design of the company’s air taxi prototype Cora, which was currently undergoing trials in New Zealand.
“One day, everyday people across the globe will be able to use Cora to bring flight into their lives,” Reid said in a statement on Tuesday.
“While we are not at that point yet, we are showing people what is possible. That is why we are excited to be drawing on Air New Zealand’s wealth of operational expertise in the New Zealand market.”
California-based Kitty Hawk Corporation, the company behind Cora, established Zephyr Airworks in New Zealand in December 2016.
The first Cora prototype arrived in New Zealand in October 2017 where it has been conducting flight tests at Christchurch and the broader Canterbury region on the country’s south island.
Designed to take off vertically like a helicopter and fly like an aeroplane, the electric aircraft has a wingspan of 11m and is powered by 12 lift fans that enable vertical takeoff and landing. A single propeller is used in flight.
It can seat up to two passengers and flies between 500ft and 3,000ft above the ground, according to the Cora website, as well as a range of about 55nm and a speed of about 100 knots.
The company has received an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to conduct its flight tests with Cora, which uses “self-flying software combined with human oversight to make flying possible for people without training”.
“With our aircraft Cora, we are building on eight years of research, development and leading 21st century technology,” Reid said.
“We are applying everything that revolutionised the world of communications to transport – we are showing people what is possible. There is also the long-term economic and environmental advantages that will benefit future generations.”
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said both companies understood the potential for “our airspace to free people from the constraints of traffic and its associated social, economic and environmental impacts”.
“Through the development of their autonomous electric air taxi Cora, the possibility of getting from A to B quickly and safely, and also relieving the impact of polluting emissions, is very real indeed,” Luxon said in a statement.
“The announcement today is the start of a long-term relationship. We’ve been impressed with Zephyr Airworks’ innovative and considered approach and our core values are aligned when it comes to delivering reliable, convenient and sustainable air travel that will benefit all New Zealanders.”
Cora one of many air taxi projects
Cora is one of several air taxi projects being conducted around the world, with the likes of Airbus, Boeing and Uber as well as carmakers, airlines and technology companies having projects in various stages of development.
There have also been trials on flying air taxis in Dubai.
And Rolls-Royce unveiled an electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVTOL) vehicle at the Farnborough Airshow in July.
VIDEO: A look at Cora, the 100 per cent electric air taxi currently undergoing trials in New Zealand, from the Kitty Hawk YouTube channel.
The July 2018 edition of Australian Aviation includes Denise McNabb’s feature on the commercial drone industry in New Zealand. The story can be read here.