To this end it can operate using self-flying software, and features three flight computers that make sure the aircraft knows where it is at all times, each able to work on its own to safeguard against systems failure. Cora is the result - a two-seater short hop aircraft that can lift off and land like a helicopter and flies forward like an airplane.
Dr Peter Crabtree of New Zealand's MBIE saw the opportunity immediately: "In New Zealand, we know we can't keep using the same old approaches to meet our future challenges".
Testing of a self-piloted air taxi is taking place in Canterbury, with the hope the flying service could soon take to the skies.More news: Low-priced 3D-Printed Home Will Help Overcome Housing Shortages
Formerly Zee.Aero, Zephyr Airworks is Kitty Hawk's operator in New Zealand, although the companies haven't put a timeline on when it will be available for rides. Like Uber, but for "The Jetsons". Cora can also fly at altitudes of between 500 to 3,000 feet and is to be powered by a fully electric engine. It has an 11-metre wingspan and operates a single propeller.
Range: Initially about 62 miles / about 100 kilometres. It's been testing the vehicles through a local operator called Zephyr Airworks, and Cora has an "experimental airworthiness certificate" from both New Zealand and U.S. aviation authorities.
The airport company has been in discussions with the American company for some time now, supporting its search for a suitable test space for the autonomous air taxi, known as Cora.More news: China to merge regulators, create new ministries in biggest revamp in years
The next phase of prototype testing is being carried out in New Zealand.
"Cora is the beginning of a journey towards everyday flight, where air travel will be woven into our daily lives", the creators said in a statement. That's why Cora can take off and land like a helicopter, eliminating the need for runways.
Zephyr Airworks is working in collaboration with New Zealand's business ministry, its transport ministry, and its Civil Aviation Authority.More news: Ryan Giggs makes Manchester United claim ahead of Sevilla Champions League clash
I've spoken to Thrun about the potential of flying "cars" in the past, and the former Google self-driving vehicle project pioneer is extremely bullish on the idea.