There was a time when unmanned vehicles were considered the stuff of science fiction. Still, the unmanned cars driving around the streets of key cities in Queensland last year proved that tomorrow’s technology is here to day. What’s more, aeronautical buffs will be delighted to learn that unmanned travel isn’t just confined to the ground anymore.
Recently, the frankly extraordinary 13-rotor transitioning VTOL airframe called Cora was unveiled by Wisk Aero. You can find out more about them in this video;
This fully electric air taxi rises like a helicopter, flies like a plane, and looks like a massive wasp in an Iron Man suit… in the best possible way.
The bad news? The kiwis are getting it before us!
Why New Zealand?
Obviously, we’re not jealous. Nope.
Not even a little bit.
The Cora is preparing to launch a service trial on New Zealand’s South Island pending New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. We’re not sure who the passengers will be. The All Blacks will obviously be way too heavy for the craft. Maybe those two blokes from Flight of the Conchords will be aboard the Cora’s inaugural flight? Or maybe Peter Jackson will use it to transport cast and crew around for a 15 hour long adaptation of The Silmarillion? Heck, they might be using it to transport sheep or gumboots.
Again, not jealous, just curious.
The venture is actually part of a push by the NZ government to encourage aerospace pioneers to choose the country as a sort of test bed for development. The last Hobbit film came out 5 years ago, after all. They must be desperately in need of infrastructure.
Credit where it’s due, the venture shows a clear desire to open up the country to pioneering efforts in aviation which might not be possible or desirable elsewhere.
Not that we’re jealous here in Australia.
Turning our attention to the Cora itself, we can see that this vertical takeoff techno-wasp is imbued with some pretty impressive tech.
Backed by Boeing and Kitty Hawk, it has an incredible pedigree and leverages a combination of cutting edge self-flying software and human oversight. There are 3 completely independent flight computers, while a parachute can be deployed in the event of catastrophic failure.
Its VTOL liftoff is facilitated by a small, winged electric multirotor which uses 12 small electric rotors, combined with a larger pusher prop at the rear of the craft to allow for winged flight. Each direct drive motor in the system has only one moving part- the fan. This means that rotor issues can be handled using automated troubleshooting processes with no discernable difference in the flight path.
It is capable of speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour with a range of around 40km with some reserve and a 460m AGL cruising height.
A great deal of effort has gone into assuring the Cora’s safety with over 1,200 flight tests logged so far. All in all, it makes for a very impressive and highly innovative aircraft with the potential to revolutionise short distance air travel.
The important thing is, we’re not jealous!
All joking aside, this is a remarkable and potentially game-changing innovation. Time will tell how effective and popular it is in the short term.
And when the Aussies get to play with this cool new toy!