back to article Former Google X bloke's startup unveils 'self flying' electric air taxi

A “self-flying” electric air taxi, as built by a startup backed by Google moneybags Larry Page, has reportedly been undergoing flight tests in New Zealand. “What if flying across town was as easy as hopping in a rideshare? What if Cora could fly for you? Cora will combine self-flying software with expert human supervision, so …

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Waaah!

Want one! Want one!

What do they mean, 'not available for the public'?

For that I'd consider trying to get a PPL.

Range?

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Re: Waaah!

Says in the video, if you can stand it. 100 miles.

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Re: Waaah!

Range?

Answering my own question...from the Grauniad (so may be totally wrong)

"...uses a propeller at the back to fly at up to 110 miles an hour for around 62 miles at a time. The all-electric Cora flies autonomously up to 914 metres (3,000ft) above ground"

Can I replace 2nd passenger with extra batteries?

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Re: Waaah!

I want Page, et al to be flying in them all the time. What could possibly go wrong?

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Black Helicopters

Re: Waaah!

Makes sense on a lot of levels to only allow rideshares & airlines to own them:

1. Retail customers suck up of a lot more resources per dollar generated than fleet customers at the sales & marketing levels.

2. Aircraft maintenance is always a big deal. The more regular use also means incipient failures are more likely to be spotted. Organizations with fleets tend to adhere to FAA (or equivalent) requirements better than individuals due to the more regular use of the equipment.

3. The fleet customer gets sued first in the even of a mishap, with the manufacturer next in line. In retail, the manufacturer gets sued first.

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Re: Waaah!

@ The Man Who Fell To Earth

Up-voted for your very well made points; also for your somewhat relevant handle...

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Re: Waaah!

>Makes sense on a lot of levels to only allow rideshares & airlines to own them

Because they are probably the only one's who can potentially justify having space and facilities necessary for landing's and take-off's; I can't see this working on any typical high street (too many people and vehicles and overhead obstructions), or even retail park - watching people trying to get their Toys-r-us or DIY/Ikea purchase in their car's and you'll soon understand the problem...

So this effectively becomes an air limo used by busy executives who need to get from the centre of London say to Heathrow or Stansted without mixing with the hoi polloi...

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Re: Waaah!

So this effectively becomes an air limo used by busy executives who need to get from the centre of London say to Heathrow or Stansted without mixing with the hoi polloi...

That's the best use case. Given the restrictions on movements in congested airspace, I can't see there's the bandwidth for many of these to be in operation on those routes - so suddenly the global market shrinks dramatically. But there's the other use case of personal transport for execs - the people currently rich enough to hire or be provided with a chauffeur driven car. Even then, this isn't a mass market.

A lovely idea, but apparently driven by "because we can" rather than "because it will be commercially successful and we'll make loads of money".

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Re: Waaah!

Seems like a fair point but if you applied that logic to the first computers or mobile phones (who else is going to pay for those satellites and masts but rich people) then you will ever get any innovation.

My biggest concern about the design as shown is those uncovered fan blades. Sure, they are *supposed* to switched off while passengers get in and out but, oops.

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I'm not an aviation engineer...

..and I couldn't tell if the video was an actual test flight or just a simulation - sound off at work - but doesn't having the props in front of the wing disturb the airflow and reduce efficiency?

Also, they say that the props can be controlled independently but how many can fail and still allow for a safe, if bumpy, landing?

Also, also, if this is supposed to be a city-based air taxi why was the video flying over mountains and valleys; are they trying to imply the range is greater than it actually is or is the air taxi idea just to start the commercial ball rolling?

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Re: I'm not an aviation engineer...

I presume the wings aren't for decoration, i.e. once it picks up a bit of speed the wing takes more of the load and the vertical fans are throttled-back, therefore the wing behaves as normally expected, until it needs to slow down when the fans will kick in again

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Boffin

Re: I'm not an aviation engineer...

"but doesn't having the props in front of the wing disturb the airflow and reduce efficiency?"

Yes it would have an effect on the airflow and efficiency during flight. But, I would imagine, the effect of having the props in front of thew wing with a clear sight of ground gives you greater efficiency during the take-off and landing phase (which are somewhat more critical).

So your probably not able to fly as fast, and you use more fuel in cruise, but your more efficient and lose less fuel in take-off and landing (then repositioning the fans to behind the wing or on top of the wing).

Where I'm not certain about is the transition between when the fans are still going and yet your starting to pick up forward speed I can see some very weird lift effects happening due to the disturbed airflow from the fans. still if its already flying they've obviously done the maths.

(PS. I am an aerospace engineer, but not affiliated with this, and so this is just my gut feelings...)

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Re: I'm not an aviation engineer...

> if this is supposed to be a city-based air taxi why was the video flying over mountains and valleys;

During development they don't want it falling on cars and pedestrians. The odd goat they can deal with.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm not an aviation engineer...

(PS. I am an aerospace engineer, but not affiliated with this

Cool!

Normally I expect discussion on these issues to have the disclaimer IANAAE at the end.

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Re: I'm not an aviation engineer...

"Also, also, if this is supposed to be a city-based air taxi why was the video flying over mountains and valleys"

Because the development flying has been done in the S Island of New Zealand where they have lots of mountains and valleys but relatively few cities.

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Re: I'm not an aviation engineer...

"..and I couldn't tell if the video was an actual test flight or just a simulation - sound off at work - but doesn't having the props in front of the wing disturb the airflow and reduce efficiency?"

And on a similar note, they state a maximum range then say that's not a problem, it's meant for "rideshare" like use in a city. Great, except I'm pretty sure each VTOL operation is going to eat significantly into that range. I wonder how long it takes to charge and how many short trips between charges? It sounds like a good idea, but without some significant battery tech improvements I think we're no further than Beriots channel hopper rather the Jetsons.

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A comparison in fuel costs and operational complexity versus the average urban helicopter would be useful, too.

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How many average urban helicopters are there?

Do most cities allow helicopters to fly over them? Or land on the buildings?

New York banned copter landings on buildings, after an incident in the 70s I think (Pan Am Building?). I don't know the other rules. London only allows helicopter flights over the Thames - and they're only allowed to land at Battersea heliport.

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@Charles 9

I'm not sure there are enough "urban helicopters" for there to be an "average" one.

I'm sure they aren't after helicopter owners specifically. More train/ferry/car/bus etc users. Seems a more sensible target market.

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Anonymous Coward

"New York banned copter landings on buildings, after an incident in the 70s I think (Pan Am Building?). I don't know the other rules. London only allows helicopter flights over the Thames - and they're only allowed to land at Battersea heliport."

was it this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czvv01yL0nA

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How many average urban helicopters are there?

@I ain't Spartacus

I think it was the Daily Planet building - a 206 JetRanger fell off. Thankfully nobody got hurt, because a bloke who has trouble remembering whether his pants go on the inside or outside, turned-up and saved everybody.

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"More train/ferry/car/bus etc users"

The operating cost of these things surely means they will be aimed at last few miles for the owners of private jets. Helicopters are very expensive to run.

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Re: "More train/ferry/car/bus etc users"

Most of the cost could be saved by these.. as no turbines to be inspected or serviced.

And yes, I see this as an alternative to go from/to the jet.

The range is way too short.. how is this thing ever going to be approved? no fuel to go to alternate airport (or 30 mins for a heli)

"[14 CFR 91, §91.167]

(a) No person may operate a civil aircraft in IFR conditions unless it carries enough fuel (considering weather reports and forecasts and weather conditions) to—

(1) Complete the flight to the first airport of intended landing;

(2) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, fly from that airport to the alternate airport; and

(3) Fly after that for 45 minutes at normal cruising speed or, for helicopters, fly after that for 30 minutes at normal cruising speed."

So this can fly for an hour.. and will be restricted to 30 mins max.. I frankly dont see how this could work with existing rules.

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Boffin

@Sparty... re- Pan Am

Yes it was the Pan Am building. When I was a kid, I took the flight with my parents and siblings on one of those larger Sikorksky twin rotor units. (The same one that crashed.)

From the building to JFK on an international flight.

To your point... it depends on the city and the type of aircraft and then there's a minimum altitude. It will vary city by city. In Chicago there are only a couple of places you can land so YMMV.

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"London only allows helicopter flights over the Thames"

Could you please tell that to the police helicopters that circle round and round and round near my house at 3 in the morning?

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London only allows *single engined* helicopter flights east of Barnes bridge over the Thames.

Multi-engined helicopters and the Police, HEMS and military can go wherever ATC let them.

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"Do most cities allow helicopters to fly over them? Or land on the buildings?"

Most I know. News and police helicopters are ubiquitous sights everywhere I go, so there are plenty of examples. As for landing on the buildings, that depends on the local situation, but it's pretty easy to determine if a given building has a rooftop helipad.

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"Do most cities allow helicopters to fly over them?"

Lisburn is a city nowadays and when we lived there we got rather a lot of low flying helicopters overhead. I wouldn't have been surprised if our roof had tyre marks on it. We were rather close to Thiepval barracks.

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"Could you please tell that to the police helicopters that circle round and round and round near my house at 3 in the morning?"

What you should really be worrying about is what's going on on the ground to bring them there.

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Not yet.

Until they can have truly autonomous flying cars where you don't need a pilots license, or to register a flight plan, don't cost stupid money or have to use a runway these will always stay in the R&D phase.

There will also have to be big changes to the way aircraft/flying vehicles are regulated and controlled, and that will take years and years. I think realistically, we're looking beyond 2030, maybe even 2040 until personal flying vehicles become even remotely viable.

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Re: Not yet.

And then there's the huge issues of fuel efficiency and failure modes, especially once the numbers add up.

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Devil

Re: Not yet.

IF Failure Mode = ON

THEN engage sub-routine Plummet_Earthwards

ELSE engage sub-routine Tallyho

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Richard Pearse

"Kitty Hawk"? In NZ? FFS!!

Hope there's a bloke sitting an a maimai with his 12 gauge ready for when it flies past..

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Re: Richard Pearse

Downvoters might want to google "Richard Pearse" for some context first.

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Re: Richard Pearse

Maybe they did - not everybody is OK with the thought that the Wright boys weren't first with powered flight.

Old cockies in the area in the 1980s (mate of mine worked on a farm there back then) remembered Pearse as a cranky old bloke, so my guess is he had Asperger's or something similar.

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Re: Richard Pearse

The phase they use on Wikipedia for Richard Pearse is "Wright brothers, who achieved sustained controlled flight.". The key words being sustained and controlled, although Richard Pearse might have gotten into the air earlier, his flights "achieved no more than brief hops".

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Coat

Downvoters might want to google "Richard Pearse" for some context first.

Also a certain "Warren Buffet"

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Not all issues are created equal

“Because our fans & propellers are electric, they can operate independently. An issue with one has no effect on the others,”

Unless the issue is a flat battery :-/

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Flame

Re: Not all issues are created equal

Or a burning one...

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Not again!

...location of the Wright Brothers’ first ever manned flight more than a century ago....

NO!!!

The first ever 'manned flight' that was well attested would be the Montgolfier Brothers balloon in 1783 - though the Chinese probably had man-carrying kites in antiquity.

First ever 'heavier-than-air manned flight' would be Sir George Cayley's glider in the 1850s. The French then take over, producing a number of powerd 'hops' in the period up to 1890 - some of which flew a few hundred yards.Lilienthal is, of course, famous for developing the controllable hang-glider with many flights to his credit. Several people around the world were flying by one definition or another before 1903.

The Wrights managed two breakthroughs. The first was really a joint development with Charles Taylor - a lightweight but powerul engine. The second was a practical 3-axis control system - though it was only just practical, being almost impossible to control. With that, they can reasonably lay claim to having the first 'sustained' 'engine-powered', 'heavier-than-air', 'controlled' man-carrying aircraft - though note that this does not count 'being able to take-off with no external help'. It was really 1905 before their aircraft could claim to be a full-functional flying machine, and by then there were a number of other machines around the world with similar capabilities.

This is not to belittle the Wright's achievment - their control system, though crude and unscaleable, was the most advanced of its day and a key reason for their success. It's just that people regularly seem to think that the Wrights invented the aeroplane, which is simply not the case. They were the first to manage to combine a number of useful features in a practical plane - but if they had never existed, those same features were all being independently worked on, and would still have been presented to the world around 1905 by Santos-Dumont, or Langley, or Whitehead, or Vosin....

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Re: Not again!

While the inclusion of the word "ever" does add some ambiguity, I think the meaning is still clear - that the first flight of the Wright Brothers was at Kitty Hawk, not that the Wright Brothers were the first to fly. Personally, I would have left out "ever" and replaced "manned" with "powered" but even that, as you point out, is subject to debate.

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Re: Not again!

Gliders don't fly, they simply fall with style

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Re: Not again! - Gliders don't fly, they simply fall with style

Upvoted for strict correctness, but of course sailplanes can fly so long as there are enough thermals.

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Re: Not again! - Gliders don't fly, they simply fall with style

The trick is just to find places where the air is falling up faster than you are falling down. Style is almost always a good thing in these matters.

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Re: Not again! - Gliders don't fly, they simply fall with style

I thought the art to flying was “in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

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Re: Not again!

> think that the Wrights invented the aeroplane,

They did have the patent on ailerons. This held back aircraft development for a few years.

You get the same effect with "Lindbergh was the first to fly the Atlantic" - he was around 57th.

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Space Hopper knock-off?

Did they nick the design from DM's space hopper? http://danmacgregor.wikia.com/wiki/Space_Hopper

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Coat

Can't see this idea taking off...

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"Never have to stop at traffic lights"

A holding pattern on the other hand. . .

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Anonymous Coward

fantastic...

visualization.

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