Pilot-less flying taxis are being tested in New Zealand as part of a project backed by Google co-founder Larry Page that supporters say will revolutionize personal transport, according to The Manila Times.
The New Zealand regulators late Tuesday approved plans for Zephyr Airworks, a subsidiary of Page’s company Kitty Hawk, to develop and test the futuristic air taxis.
The electric air taxi can carry two passengers. It is designed to take off like a helicopter, and it uses proprietary software to fly like a regular fixed-wing aircraft, with the help of some human supervision, according to tech news world report.
Zephyr Airworks, Kitty Hawk’s New Zealand affiliate, has been working with government officials on plans to test the new service as part of a program meant to encourage science and innovation in the country.
Page’s Kitty Hawk company, the developer of a new autonomous flying machine called “Cora,” will begin testing the service in rural Canterbury, a region in the South Island, according Megan Woods, New Zealand’s minister of research, science and innovation.
Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun was the founder of Google X, where he led the development of self-driving cars, Glass, and other key projects. Zephyr Airworks CEO Fred Reid was the founding CEO of Virgin America, as well as former president of Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa Airlines, the report said.
“International innovators are finding our unique expertise, resources and talent, together with our size and location, offer surprising advantages when it comes to turning ideas into reality,” said Woods.
“Zephyr Airworks’ presence in New Zealand will help build capacity in our own science system, particularly in areas like software engineering, artificial intelligence, robotics, composite materials and aviation design,” she added.
The Cora aircraft has been in development since 2010. The company so far has obtained experimental airworthiness certificates both from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States.