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World’s First Autonomous Air Taxi Trial Initiated in New Zealand

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Urban Air Mobility is a high-value industry that’s fast emerging all around the world, as it holds the promise of modern, alternative transportation options that may solve the complexities of daily commutes through increasingly congested urban areas.

Marking a new milestone in this global endeavor to take this up-and-coming technology from testing to actual in-service operations, the New Zealand Government has just announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Wisk, an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) company headquartered in both California and New Zealand.

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An independent company backed by aviation leaders the Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation, Wisk already has over a decade of both piloted and autonomous flight experience under its belt.

For this, the world’s first passenger transport trial of its kind, Wisk’s self-piloted, all-electric air taxi prototype, called ‘Cora,’ has been selected. With vertical taking off and landing (VTOL) capabilities, Cora rises like a helicopter and flies like a plane, and uses human-monitored software that allows her to fly autonomously. The two-passenger aircraft has already logged over 1,000 test flights since first taking to the skies in 2017 when she first began testing in the Canterbury region.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister, Megan Woods, who announced the establishment of New Zealand’s Airspace Integration Trials Programme last October, said today: “The Government sees great potential in the development of an innovative unmanned aircraft sector in New Zealand and we are in a prime position to work with globally-leading companies here to safely test and go-to-market. As well as the economic and social benefits the growth of this industry offers, we also share Wisk’s vision of a greener, emission-free way for Kiwis and visitors to New Zealand to get around. Enabling the emergence of an entirely electric air taxi service is a natural fit with New Zealand’s zero-carbon goal by 2050.”

Wisk CEO, Gary Gysin, said: “We are delighted to now have a signed agreement with the New Zealand Government, which will propel Cora’s entry to the air taxi market. We see this agreement as a sign of confidence in our product and abilities to develop and deliver a safe and reliable air taxi service, starting in New Zealand.

With the MOU in place, the development and planning of specific trial parameters, timeframes, and passenger routes are now underway with input from the program’s local partners in Canterbury. The air taxi route will become the world’s first and can commence following Cora’s official airworthiness certification by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.

For more information, visit wisk.aero.

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