Many companies have made a splash in the flying car or airborne taxi industry, which has only just begun to earn its wings (pun intended). Now it turns out Google founder Larry Page has been working on his own flying taxi, largely in secret and away from any press coverage.
Apparently that means the self-flying taxi has officially taken flight, The New York Times suggested on Monday. Page has secretly worked with a company called Kitty Hawk, run by Sebastian Thrun. He began Google’s self-driving car initiative, which turned into Alphabet’s Waymo. The fruits of his latest labors at Kitty Hawk is Cora, an autonomous and fully electric flying taxi.
Perhaps most impressive? Cora is a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) machine. That means it can take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane.
Right now, the VTOL can go 62 miles on a charge in the air while carrying two passengers, and Cora has passed its first public test with flying colors.
Kitty Hawk said it has been conducting stealth flights with Cora for months in New Zealand and the company announced it will work with the country certify the unmanned flying taxis for commercial use. Both New Zealand and Kitty Hawk hope to have the vehicles ready for commercialization in three years.
Certifying the vehicle with a regulatory body will be a major undertaking, but if Kitty Hawk and Page succeed, New Zealand could lay out the blueprint for aviation regulators worldwide. The country said it will embrace the company and welcomed it to continue tests.
In the United States, things are more complex, and regulations are nowhere near capable of certifying low-flying air taxis in the skies over densely crowded cities.
Perhaps that will change next decade. Or perhaps there are regulators old enough to recall the carnage that resulted when one of the helicopters that used to land on the roof of New York City’s then-Pan Am building fell 800 feet to the street below in 1977.