Kitty Hawk has been keeping its efforts in New Zealand under wraps by operating its autonomous planes in testing there under the name ‘Zephyr Airworks,’ and by doing the work on this passenger plane under the code name “Zee Aero,” which is the name of what some had suspected was a separate company backed by Page and led by former airline executive Fred Reid.
This aircraft is called “Cora” by Kitty Hawk, and has a 36-foot wingspan and 12 rotors, powered entirely by battery. It has a 62-mile range and room on board for two passengers. Kitty Hawk intends to own and operate the vehicles itself, per the report, kind of like what Ford intends to do with its first fleet of autonomous cars to enter commercial service.
Autonomous flight, and short-hop on-demand aerial transportation, are both big areas of focus for some other high-profile companies, including Uber, which is hosting its second annual conference dedicated to the idea in May, and Airbus, which has been investing in small, electric, autonomous aircraft via its own Vahanna project and through partnerships, including with automaker Audi.
Thrun seemed incredibly confident in the ability of autonomous air transport to make a significant impact sooner than most people think when I spoke to him about Udacity’s flying car nanondegree program, and now it’s obvious why: His own company is making great strides towards fielding an actual commercial service.
This article originally appeared on TechCrunch