Urban Air Mobility is a buzzphrase these days. It’s a way of describing a coming future where unmanned aerial vehicles – including air taxis that ferry passengers – are part of the urban airspace.
Think about the last time you were stuck in traffic. Wouldn’t it have been a cool option if you could have summoned an aircraft with a phone app, climbed in, and been autonomously flown to a landing pad close to your destination? That’s the vision several companies have of the near future, in a world of Urban Air Mobility, or UAM. We’ve written about this before with EHang, the Chinese manufacturer of a two-person, autonomous passenger-carrying vehicle.
Today, we’re going to look at another contender.
Introducing Wisk and Cora
It’s okay if you haven’t heard those names before. But we can pretty much guarantee you’ve heard of two related names. Wisk is a company established in 2019. It’s a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk Corporation. With its headquarters in Mountain View, California, it also has offices in Atlanta and New Zealand.
But the seeds of Cora – its passenger carrying drone – started earlier, in 2010. That’s when a partnership with Kitty Hawk along began, and it’s where the Cora project first got under way. The aircraft first flew in 2017 and has since completed more than 1,400 successful flights.
A unique VTOL design
All passenger drones intended for the world of Urban Air Mobility are VTOLs. You need to be able to take off and land vertically in an urban center, as it’s not realistic to start building runways everywhere. Some designs, like EHang’s EH216, clearly have their roots in the world of multicopters:
Cora is different. It uses a fixed-wing and a single pusher propeller for forward motion. It also has a dozen small props for vertical lift.
Those propellers caught our eye immediately, as there’s some pretty interesting engineering going on. The blades are short and broad. Wisk refers to them as “fans.” Once you hear that, and take a second look, it’s pretty clear they do look more like fan blades than propellers. We’re guessing there are 12 of them because they have less lift than larger props – and also for the purposes of redundancy.
Let’s see it fly
This new video takes a look at the history of the vehicle’s development:
Wisk offers some specs for Cora on its website. Here are the basics:
- Range: 25 miles (about 40 kilometers) initially
- Speed: 100 mph/160 kph
- Wingspan: 36′
- Length: 21′
Regulatory: Experimental airworthiness certificate from both the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)