The New Zealand Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with urban air mobility company Wisk (the new trading name of Zephyr Airworks) to support a world-first passenger transport trial of the company's all-electric, self-flying air taxi 'Cora' in Canterbury, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Autonomous Cars and Robotaxis 2020-2040: Players, Technologies and Market Forecast.
Wisk have been testing Cora in the Canterbury region since 2017, and a passenger transport trial is a next step for the company on their journey towards taking their world-leading technology to market.
"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. As well as the economic and social benefits the growth of this industry offers, we also share Wisk's vision of a greener, emission-free way for Kiwis and visitors to New Zealand to get around. Enabling the emergence of an entirely electric air taxi service is a natural fit with New Zealand's zero carbon goal by 2050. 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."
The specific details regarding the trial parameters, timeframes, and the proposed routes are currently being developed in collaboration with local partners.
"The establishment of this trial will require Government, industry and key stakeholders at a national and local level working together to develop and deliver a robust plan for safe operation in the Christchurch area," Megan Woods said. "This trial is the first of its kind and Wisk's innovative technology and commitment to New Zealand make them an ideal partner for advancing the future of travel in New Zealand and the world," she said.
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.
The emerging UA sector is fast growing and R&D intensive, and the integration of UA into the aviation system has the potential to generate significant economic benefits. A recent benefit study commissioned by MBIE and the Ministry of Transport estimated that the commercial application of UA could generate up to $7.9 billion in additional value to the New Zealand economy over the next 25 years.
Source: Beehive Govt NZ
Top image: Wisk