New Zealand Mulls Regulatory Approval of Kitty Hawk Flying Taxis

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The technology, eight years in the making, had been searching for its own Kitty Hawk, where it could test "an air taxi, affectionately named Cora, that could take off like a helicopter and transition to flying like a plane", according to the release.

Kitty Hawk, which launched in California, repeatedly praised New Zealand's "forward-thinking regulatory environment" and suggested it would have been impossible to launch Cora in the U.S. Boeing bought Aurora Flight Sciences, Airbus made an investment in Blade, and Uber is already working on the same idea with Uber Elevate.

Kitty Hawk's aircraft, called Cora, looks like a mix between a drone and a small plane.

Countries in the Middle East and Africa have been more willing to allow unmanned flights. Airbus made an investment two weeks ago in Blade, an aviation startup in NY. That had a world class reputation in certification and regulation.

On Tuesday, regulators in New Zealand approved plans to develop and test the futuristic mode of transport.

Due to its relative isolation from other nations and long stretches of uninhabited land, New Zealand is the flawless testing ground for Kitty Hawk to prove its tech works without getting in the way of commercial planes or endangering people on the ground.

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"We are offering a pollution free, emission free vehicle that flies dependably, we think this is the logical next step in the evolution of transportation", Zephyr chief executive Fred Reid said. Before that, he was president of Delta Air Lines and president of Lufthansa Airlines, where he was co-architect of the Star Alliance.

In other words, unless you live in New Zealand, don't necessarily count on climbing into an autonomous air taxi anytime soon.

Kitty Hawk has operated largely in secret until April 2017, led by Sebastian Thrun, who is also a founder of Google's self-driving vehicle program and online education service Udacity.

But before everyone gets too excited - or nervous - about this "Jetsons"-like future, just know that virtually every prediction about how quickly air taxis would arrive has been wrong".

But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and vehicle parks as landing pads.