Perception and attitudes towards CORA, flying electric car


Zephyr Airworks (‘Zephyr’) is a pioneer in the field of small, self-piloted, electric, VTOL aircraft. The company’s vision is to use these aircraft to create a network of self-piloted aerial commuter craft operating out of a network of ‘verti-ports’. Both in New Zealand and the international stage.

To prepare for the media attention Zephyr wanted to develop a credible story for global and local media consumption. This is important to support Zephyr’s social license to operate.

The client wanted this story to emphasise the innovative nature of the aircraft, its transformation potential, as well as its safety record and the link to New Zealand’s pioneering aviation history. Zephyr was keen to test receptivity to these concepts and messages.

What did Research First do?

We used a dual approach of focus groups and a questionnaire. The questionnaire tested attitudes towards aviation and autonomy. The focus groups provided greater detail on the perceptions of different groups. We used three different focus groups:

  • Potential users of the aircraft
  • Members of the community likely to be affected by its operation
  • The general public.

We completed reports at each phase to update and inform the company in a way that was compelling and used a mix of research skills to elicit the different views of the groups and tell the story in a multi-dimensional way.

What impact did it make

The value for the client from this work enabled them to strengthen their strategy development for the public launch of the prototype. It gave them the voice of the potential customers and the areas to focus on when talking about their clean green flying machine. This was important as this was seven years of work before the public launch that attracted both local and international media attention. We helped Zephyr to tell a story that reflected the excitement of their product. In particular one that emphasised:

  • Building Trust
  • The Local Connection
  • Characteristics as Clean, Quiet, and Renewable

While participants liked the elements of sustainability in this message, they noted that it should also emphasise that this ‘incredible new way to get around’ should also be safe. Others fast-forwarded to a future when these aircraft would be a normal part of the transport ecosystem. In which case:

If there are going to be lots of these things buzzing around in the sky we want them to be quiet and as we move forward clean is going to be a must, not an option.