Electric aircraft company Wisk has just signed a letter of intent with the New Zealand government. The company may now start the first trials carrying passengers in its eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft). Wisk is now pushing ahead with its production and commercialisation plans with Boeing.
Wisk formed in 2010 as an off-shoot of Kitty Hawk funded by Google co-founder Larry Page. The team introduced an electric autonomous air taxi called Cora two years ago. Near the end of 2019, this team became the joint venture Wisk, founded byKitty Hawk and Boeing. The company is now continuing the development of the electric air taxi begun by the Kitty Hawk team.
Although Wisk is still only a few months old, the letter of intent with the New Zealand government is a coup on the road to commercial autonomous electric flights. Both sides have agreed to test flights with passengers onboard the electric air taxi in the Canterbury region but have not yet given a timetable. The eVTOL model was already tested in this region in 2017. As reported, the air taxi developers aim to establish a commercial air service, starting in New Zealand.
The Cora air taxi presented two years ago is a vertical take-off two-seater with twelve electric motors. The aircraft should be able to fly up to 100 kilometres at a top speed of 177 km/h. In the future, the small electric aircraft will serve the purpose of transporting two people from A to B via on-demand service, for which Wisk will be relying on autonomous flight systems.
The test area in New Zealand has been made possible by a unique programme for test flights of innovative aircraft models that the government adopted in October 2019 called the Airspace Integration Trial programme. The aim here is to collaborate with industrial partners from the innovation sector. Wisk is the first company to receive the green light for test flights under the new programme. Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk, says he sees the agreement as “a sign of confidence in our product and capabilities”.
The passenger route can now be planned as a result of the newly-signed agreement. This will be the world’s first eVTOL passenger route and will commence after Cora’s certification with the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.
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