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New Zealand Government Signs MOU for Self-Flying Taxi Trial

Sky

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced that the New Zealand Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with urban air mobility company Wisk.

About the Initiative

As reported, the MoU will support a world-first passenger transport trial of the company’s all-electric, self-flying air taxi ‘Cora’ in Canterbury.

The company has been testing Cora in the Canterbury region since 2017. The next step on the journey towards taking the world-leading technology to market is a passenger transport trial.

The Government sees great potential in the development of an innovative unmanned aircraft sector in New Zealand and the country is in a prime position to work with globally-leading companies to safely test and go-to-market.

On top of the economic and social benefits, which the growth of the industry offers, the Government shares the company’s vision of a greener, emission-free way for Kiwis and visitors to get around New Zealand.

Enabling the emergence of an entirely electric air taxi service is a natural fit with New Zealand’s zero carbon goal by 2050.

Background

Canterbury is home to an emerging cluster of innovative aerospace and aviation companies and its manufacturing and technology sectors are the second largest in the country.

Christchurch is very attractive for trialling the new technology because of Canterbury’s strong tertiary and research eco-system alongside the connectivity to the rest of the world, as it has an international seaport and airport.

The specific details regarding the trial parameters, timeframes, and the proposed routes are currently being developed in collaboration with local partners.

The establishment of the 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.

The trial is the first of its kind. The company’s innovative technology and commitment to New Zealand make them an ideal partner for advancing the future of travel in the country and the world.

Brief History

In October 2019, the Government announced the establishment of the Airspace Integration Trials Programme.

It is an innovative, industry-focused programme to support the safe testing and development of advanced unmanned aircraft and accelerate their integration into the aviation system.

OpenGov reported that the Government will work with leading, innovative aviation industry partners to test and demonstrate the use of unmanned aircraft for passenger transport, cargo delivery, agricultural services and hazard management.

Before that, in July 2019, the Government released the paper Taking Flight: an aviation system for the automated age.

The paper sets out the vision to integrate small drones and advanced UA into the transport system and to develop a thriving, innovative and safe sector.

OpenGov reported that the document aims to provide the sector with a clear understanding of the Government’s role, and its strategic direction and priority areas, to achieve the safe integration of drones into the aviation system and broader transport system.

Aside from identifying the benefits that drones can deliver, the document also sets out the challenges that need to be managed to unlock the benefits of drones and keep New Zealanders safe.

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. The integration of UA into the aviation system has the potential to generate significant economic benefits.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Transport recently commissioned a benefit-study, which 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.

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