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As we all know, congestion is one of the biggest problems that urban mobility companies are trying to solve today. But one start-up is moving ahead in the race to bringing a viable and clean solution to the world.

Enter Wisk, an independent urban air mobility (UAM) company backed by The Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation, dedicated to delivering safe, everyday flights for everyone.

Its autonomous, all-electric eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) air taxi, Cora, has been selected by the New Zealand government for trials, the outcomes of which might change the face of the country’s UAM industry.

Wisk CEO, Gary Gysin, states: “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.

“Wisk has been working with the Government and people of New Zealand since 2017. We are excited about what this agreement and trial represents in our journey to bring safe everyday flight to everyone. New Zealand values innovation, excellence and technology that is safe for people and the environment. Being selected as the partner for this program is an honor and testament to our hard work and steady progress.”

With its headquarters in San Francisco, Wisk is also present in Atlanta, Georgia and New Zealand. The company has a decade of experience and over 1000 test flights and aims to “shape the future of daily commutes and urban travel, safely and sustainably”.

This is a particularly exciting space to be in, especially since urban air mobility comes with its own unique set of challenges. Needless to say, Wisk’s use of autonomous and eVTOL technology, as well as its journey forward, is being keenly followed by many.

To get a sense of Cora and to know more about the trials, we caught up with Wisk spokesperson, Becky Tanner. She told us: “Cora takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane. It will give commuters another transportation option that gets you to your destination faster. In most urban areas, commuters are travelling less than 40 miles to their destination. Currently, Cora is designed to travel about 25 miles with reserves (40 kilometres). With advancements in battery technology, we anticipate extending this range.”

She adds: “Cora is designed using the best aviation safety practices. It has inherent safety throughout its systems to prevent a single failure from endangering the airplane. For instance, it has triplex redundant flight computers, twelve lift fans, three independent stages on its forward motor, and a whole-airframe parachute.”

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Enabling the emergence of an entirely electric air taxi service is a natural fit with New Zealand’s zero carbon goal.

Wisk has been testing Cora in the Canterbury region since 2017, according to the government of New Zealand. Which is why, when the Airspace Integration Trials Programme announced, it was the ideal opportunity for both ends to collaborate and they signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

“This trial is the first of its kind and Wisk’s innovative technology and commitment to New Zealand make them an ideal partner for advancing the future of travel in New Zealand and  the world,” says the country’s Research, Science and Innovation Minister, Megan Woods.

“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,” she adds.

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Cora Air Taxi by Wisk

Tanner says, at this point, Wisk’s focus is on trial planning. “The specific details regarding the trial parameters, timeframes, and the proposed route are currently being developed in collaboration with local partners. Whilst Cora has been selected as the aircraft for this passenger transport trial, the outcomes of the trial are also expected to support the development of New Zealand’s UAM industry

“The development of VTOL and eVTOL aircraft holds significant promise for a wide variety of business aviation applications, and the potential to transform on-demand aerial transportation. There have been several reports and predictions on the forecasted value of the UAM market and currently there is a large number of companies developing eVTOLs, several with the aim of being air taxis.” 

Cora is one of several development projects underway for Wisk. “All have different capabilities including; how they are piloted, the number of passengers they can transport, their travel ranges and speeds, and their paths to actual certification,” concludes Tanner.

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