Google Co-Founder Larry Page invested heavily in a very secretive company called Kitty Hawk, run by Google X's former executive Sebastian Thrun, and now the self-piloting flying taxis that the company has been working on are ready to be revealed to the public. 12 independent lift fans power the taxi so it can take off and land much like a helicopter, and doesn't require a runway. Once it's in the air, all those propellers provide more traditionally plane-like forward thrust.
Now, according to The New York Times, Kitty Hawk will on Tuesday announce it has reached an agreement with the government of New Zealand to test its aircraft in order to get officially certified for flying in the country. It has a range of about 62 miles right now.
Capacity: Designed for two passengers.
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Ride in a pilotless flying taxi, anyone? Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun (who previously ran Google's self-driving vehicle project), said the first thing officials asked was how they could make the regulatory process faster for Kitty Hawk. The vehicle has wings like a plane, but each wing has a series of small helicopter blades on them. A timeline on the website shows how far things have come over the years, from its first hover in 2011, first self-piloted transition in 2014 and the beginning of self-piloted testing in New Zealand last October.
Autonomous flight, and short-hop on-demand aerial transportation, are both big areas of focus for some other high-profile companies, including Uber, which is hosting its second annual conference dedicated to the idea in May, and Airbus, which has been investing in small, electric, autonomous aircraft via its own Vahanna project and through partnerships, including with automaker Audi.
Hell, even Porsche is down with the idea of a flying auto.