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Kitty Hawk’s Cora prototype air taxi

Kitty Hawk‘s Cora is in flight test at the moment. The company is developing Cora as an “electric, autonomous fully fledged air taxi that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane”.

Cora is an aircraft powered by both a multi-rotor system to provide lift, and a horizontally mounted pusher propeller to provide propulsion, all powered by electric motors.

Ultimately the autonomous system will combine self-flying software with expert human supervision, allowing any one to fly in the aircraft.

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Starting in 2010, Cora has gone through several prototype aircraft developing different parts of the system; the unmanned proof of concept, completed the first unmanned transition in February 2014, with the first transition with a human pilot in August 2017. With enthusiastic support from the New Zeland government, the current unmanned version (pictured above) began testing in New Zealand through Zephyr Airworks, to develop the system’s regulations and airspace integration, while the system continued flight testing and development in California.

This close up of the port wing and propulsion engine shows the variability of the 12 lift engines to give pitch and roll attitude control, along with the design of the propeller blades, and the fact that the lift engines are not always required due to the lift generated from the wings.

Looking at both pictures together, the ability to switch both the propulsion and lift propellers on and off depending on the stage of the flight gives a benefit in energy savings.