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Backed by Boeing: Futuristic 'unmanned' air taxi being developed in NZ

Imagine taking to the skies in a battery-powered aircraft that can take off almost anywhere and fly itself without a pilot.

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The prototype aircraft runs on electric batteries and could carry up to two people. Source: 1 NEWS

That dream is becoming a reality in New Zealand as a new prototype is on display in Christchurch this weekend.

The 'unmanned' air taxi backed by the aerospace giant Boeing is in development on our shores.

“It will help you get from work to home quicker, or even do tourist routes, so in beautiful Christchurch it could be the CBD to Akaroa,” Wisk Asia-Pacific director, Anna Kominik says.

Built by the company, Wisk, the aircraft runs on electric batteries, carrying up to two people 40 kilometres at a time.

It can take flight without a runway, uses self-flying software and reaches speeds of 160 kilometres an hour.

“It takes off and lands like a helicopter, so that's vertically up and down, and once it's in the air it flies like an aeroplane, powered by a single large propeller at the back,” says flight test engineer, Hamish Janett.

They won't be available for retail sale - but could one day form a taxi service.

There's still plenty of work to do - Wisk has logged 1500 test flights, but is still working to gain final approval from the Civil Aviation Authority.

“We're not going to have them all zooming around like the Jetsons anytime soon, I can assure everyone of that. It is very much up to the community to determine what those rules are,” Kominik says.