SELF-PILOTED 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.
Since October last year, the drone-like invention has been seen flying over the South Island and will be for an estimated six years trial period with operations based around the city of Christchurch.
To those on the ground, it has always been unclear whether there was a pilot aboard.
New Zealand regulators on Tuesday approved plans for Zephyr Airworks, a subsidiary of Mr Page’s company Kitty Hawk, to develop and test the futuristic air taxis.
Known as Cora, the electric aircraft has a dozen lift fans on its wings, making it capable of vertical takeoff and landing like a helicopter.
But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and car parks as landing pads.
“We are offering a pollution free, emission free vehicle that flies dependably, we think this is the logical next step in the evolution of transportation,” Zephyr chief executive Fred Reid said.
The Cora prototype being tested in New Zealand’s South Island uses three on-board computers to calculate its flight path and is capable of carrying two passengers.
It has a range of 100 kilometres and can fly at 150 kmh at an altitude of up to 900 metres.
Zephyr said using the air taxi would be a simple experience for passengers, similar to taking a ride-share in a car.