Google co-founder’s Kitty Hawk unveils its electric autonomous flying taxi

Kitty Hawk, the company led by the ‘godfather of self-driving cars’ Sebastian Thrun and backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, has revealed its Cora aircraft, which is a hybrid vertical take-off and landing design that can take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane.

The vehicle can travel at over 93 miles per hour, and has a range of around 62 miles on a single charge. It’s wingspan is around 36 feet, making it very small for a commercial aircraft, which is idea for its intended use in and around urban areas. It has room for two passengers on board, with side-by-side seating including one where you’d normally find the pilot.

In this aircraft’s case, neither a pilot nor a pilot’s license is even necessary for its operation, however. Kitty Hawk’s intent is to have the aircraft certified for fully autonomous operation by launch, which it hopes will happen sometime around 2021 once it completes testing with New Zealand, its first partner on the government and regulatory side.

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Kitty Hawk previously revealed its ‘Flyer’ aircraft, which was more like a hovercraft crossed with a jet ski, and which it intends to sell to individuals in the recreational vehicle market. That was always just a stepping stone towards the company’s larger goal of building viable self-flying taxis, however.

With Cora, Kitty Hawk’s real vision comes through – the startup aims to build, own and operate a fleet of these as an on-demand self-flying taxi service, beginning commercial operations in as few as three years’ time. No word yet on price or how this will operate exactly in terms of pick-up and drop-off points, but it seems farther along than a lot of the other pie-in-the-sky autonomous aerial taxi projects out there, thanks to official government support.