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Autonomous air taxi flight trials take off in New Zealand

The New Zealand Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with urban air mobility company Wisk (https://www.urbanairmobilitynews.com/air-taxis/boeing-and-kittyhawk-launch-wisk-company-to-develop-the-cora-air-taxi/) to support a transport trial of the company’s Cora air taxi in Canterbury, according to Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods. This is reported to be the world’s first autonomous air taxi/airspace integration trial. The specific details regarding the trial parameters, timeframes, and the proposed routes are currently being developed in collaboration with local partners.

“Last year I announced the establishment of the Airspace Integration Trials Programme and that Wisk were the first industry partner to join – I’m pleased to announce that an agreement is now in place and planning for a passenger transport trial in my home region of Canterbury is underway,” Megan Woods said. “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..

“Canterbury is home to an emerging cluster of innovative aerospace and aviation companies and its manufacturing and technology sectors are the second largest in New Zealand. The city’s strong tertiary and research eco-system alongside the connectivity to the rest of the world, with an international seaport and airport, makes Christchurch attractive for trialling new technology,” said the minister.

Wisk CEO, Gary Gysin, said: “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.”

According to a government statement

“In October 2019 the Government announced the establishment of the Airspace Integration Trials Programme – an innovative, industry-focussed programme to support the safe testing and development of advanced unmanned aircraft and accelerate their integration into the aviation system. In July 2019, the Government released the paper Taking Flight: an aviation system for the automated age which sets out the vision to integrate small drones and advanced UA into our transport system and develop a thriving, innovative and safe sector. Industry investing in the development, testing and certification of new and unproven advanced UA and adjacent technologies is a key to achieving this vision.

A recent benefit study commissioned by MBIE and the Ministry of Transport estimated that the commercial application of UA could generate up to NZD7.9 billion in additional value to the New Zealand economy over the next 25 years.

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