Eight years in the making and with some very funky looking propellers. Apparently flying in New Zealand since October of 2017. A big separate lift thrust (SLT) chuck out the people and deliver meaningful amounts of stuff!

(This video will not embed properly, less than 100 views at posting so no doubt somebody will be along to fix it)

Sebastian Thrum was the founder of X (previously Google X) and now is CEO of Kitty Hawk, has teamed up with Fred Reid, CEO of Zephyr Airworks, Kitty Hawk’s operator in New Zealand. Fred was the founding CEO of Virgin America.

The reason for rolling out in NZ was I thought compelling, almost pointing out to the FAA that America is lagging behind. Amazon is testing in the UK and Google are already flying trial deliveries in Australia. All those expensive test sites and the development is still shipping out overseas. I wonder if that other elephant in the room, ITAR is also an issue.

A very exciting project that I can see being of use in Air Autonomous ;-)

America in the early 20th century of the Wright Brothers was a hotbed of invention and discovery. The Model T. The first Flyer. Even the electric guitar. We needed a place that was just as bold and dynamic in order to bring Cora to the commercial market.

A place that could be more than just a willing airfield. That had a world-class reputation in certification and regulation. And a government and society with an eye to the horizon. Whose people could be the first to experience the benefits of what we had come to call everyday flight. A true partner.

We quickly realized that there was only one place in the world that had everything we needed — Richard Pearse’s New Zealand. New Zealand’s Central Aviation Authority has the respect of the worldwide regulatory community. A people who embrace the future. And a dynamic economy that could serve as a springboard for Cora.

But would they be interested? Would they care about our dream?

What we didn’t know was that New Zealand was also on a quest. They had already built one of the world’s most sustainable energy ecosystems –– with 80% of the country powered by renewable energy. And now they were looking to harness the benefits of the electric mobility revolution.

Finally, the dreamers from California met the visionaries from New Zealand. Zephyr CEO, Fred Reid, remembers the moment, “We had no idea what to expect. They could have laughed us out of the room. We were pitching something that sounded like science fiction.”

But Dr Peter Crabtree of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) saw the opportunity immediately. “In New Zealand, we know we can’t keep using the same old approaches to meet our future challenges. 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.”

What emerged was a deeper partnership than we had ever imagined. Together with MBIE, New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority were willing to work with us. And we discovered amazing communities like the City of Christchurch that were willing to engage with us about a future where the freedom of flight belongs to everyone.

We had found a home. A community who shared our vision of a better world. Of a life where the sky connects us to the people and places that matter most. Even though we were at the very beginning of a long journey, things were looking up.

We had found our Kitty Hawk.

Company Name: Kitty Hawk Corporation is a California-based company.
Zephyr Airworks is the operator of Kitty Hawk in New Zealand.

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

Kitty Hawk CEO: Sebastian Thrun

Zephyr Airworks CEO: Fred Reid

Product NameCora (prototype)

Type of Machine: Air taxi

Power: All-electric

Capacity: Designed for two passengers.

Altitude: Operates between 500 ft to 3000 ft above the ground.

Wingspan: 36 feet/about 11 meters

Vertical take-off and landing: Cora is powered by 12 independent lift fans, which enable her to take off and land vertically like a helicopter. Therefore, Cora has no need for a runway.

Fixed wing flight: On a single propeller.

Range: Initially about 62 miles / about 100 kilometres.

Speed: About 110 miles per hour / about 180 kilometres per hour.

Regulation: Cora has an experimental airworthiness certificate from both the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We are working with the CAA on further certification goals to bring an air taxi service to the commercial market.

By Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.