After a brief pause in flight testing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, air taxi company Wisk has resumed flight tests of the Cora aircraft in both the U.S and New Zealand.
Wisk was established in 2019 as a joint venture between The Boeing Company and Kitty Hawk Corporation, in collaboration with Air New Zealand. The Cora aircraft itself was originally created by Kitty Hawk, which has now transitioned to working on its latest aircraft, the Heaviside. As of February 2020, Wisk had signed a partnership with the government of New Zealand to eventually bring Cora’s autonomous air taxi capabilities to the country’s transportation infrastructure. The MoU signed that month allowed Wisk to begin conducting the world’s first full airspace integration trial of an autonomous eVTOL in Canterbury, a large region of New Zealand.
The now-resumed flight tests will evaluate the performance of the aircraft in a real world environment, while collecting data that will help inform the further development, operation, safety features and certification of the Cora aircraft. Prior to the to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had completed over 1300 test flights to expand the flight envelope, provide data for modeling, improve overall design, and complete procedures to operate the aircraft safely and efficiently.
Says Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk, “The team’s dedication over the past few months has allowed us to remain focused on critical non-flight areas, such as certification, software development, and operations. This has allowed us to maintain momentum during this unique time. But it’s awesome to be flying again.”
Carl Engel, Director, Flight Test for Wisk, comments: “Our first priority has always been safety, both for our employees and in the development of our aircraft. As we return to flight testing, we have implemented a number of procedures and social distancing measures based on best practices and recommendations from local and national health and government organizations.”
Why it’s important: While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly put a temporary hold on physical flight tests, the team at Wisk was successfully able to use that time to achieve many important goals working from home, focusing on subjects like operations, certification, and critical software. Given that Wisk was able to adjust its development workflow so quickly, it was likely able to reduce a great deal of the negative impact of the pandemic slow-down, and now can resume flight testing without delay.