The New Zealand government and Wisk today signed a memorandum of understanding for the Cora electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to conduct autonomous passenger-carrying trial flights in the city of Canterbury. Wisk, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, has been testing the all-electric aircraft in New Zealand since 2017 and has logged more than 1,000 flights.
Officials have not yet said when the first passenger-carrying flights will be made or how passengers will be chosen. However, it is contingent on the Cora completing type certification by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Wisk told AIN that the agreement begins the process through which it will agree the timeline and other arrangements for the flight trials with various government agencies.
Wisk New Zealand (formerly Zephyr Airworks) is working with the country’s Ngai Tahu Maori tribe to support science and technology education initiatives and as part of a wider community engagement process. The company also is partnered with flag-carrier Air New Zealand.
In October 2019, the New Zealand government announced an Airspace Integration Trial to demonstrate how unmanned aircraft can be safely operated in unmanned airspace and it has now selected Wisk as the first industry partner for this program. The program is being managed by the country’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment in conjunction with the CAA and the Ministry of Transport.
“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,” commented research, science, and innovation minister Megan Woods. “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."
"Cora's ability to self-fly, using self-flying software and supervision on the ground, combined with the safe testing already undertaken as part of the certification process, are two of the factors that contributed to Cora being selected for the passenger-transport trial," explained Wisk chief marketing officer Becky Tanner.
Cora is expected to fly on routes up to around 60 miles and at speeds of approximately 112 mph. It can carry two passengers.