Air taxi could pave way for fleet of electric planes for Air New Zealand

Forget the car or hopping on a bus or train, you could be flying to work within a decade for the price of a taxi.

Air New Zealand and world leading aerospace company Zephyr have announced a partnership to create a fleet of air taxis.

No runway, no pilot, no emissions - it's the future of everyday travel.

Californian company Zephyr has been developing and testing a prototype in Christchurch that's piloted by software rather than a human, and it can travel up to 100km at 150km/hour. 

On Tuesday Air NZ lent its weight to help get it off the ground.

CEO Christopher Luxon says Zephyr is using New Zealand as a petri dish, giving them a chance to learn and experiment before exporting to the world.

Zephyr's Anna Kominik says they intend it to be a service for everybody.

"Our intention is that it will be about the same cost as a taxi."

But that will be a long way off. It will likely begin as a small scale tourist operation before being developed into park and ride-style commuting.

Air NZ also wants to use the technology to turn its domestic fleet of turbo-prop planes electric.

"That could enable 15 to 50 people to travel on electric aircraft that would enable us to deliver a regional network in a different kind of way going forward,' says Mr Luxon.

But first they have to produce a safe, reliable aircraft.

"The real opportunity for New Zealand is that we take full advantage of this emerging industry which is going to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide," says Ms Kominik.


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