The German start-up Lilium grabs Orlando deal to launch US hub for flying taxis

Lilium’s five-seat air taxi flies over an airfield in southern Germany in the company’s new footage.


The German aviation start-up Lilium signed a contract with the city of Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday to launch the first US transport hub for its flying taxis.

The Munich-based group is planning to build a so-called “Vertiport” in Lake Nona, a planned futuristic smart city near Orlando International Airport. It works with local property developer Tavistock Development to design and construct the project.

Lilium’s ultimate vision is to set up a network of air taxis in different cities, with an app that can stop the vehicles similar to Uber. It is one of many companies that build drone-like aircraft that take off and land vertically like a helicopter.

The company says its all-electric five-seat Lilium Jet, which was first introduced last year, is expected to reach speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour. At a demonstration last year, he managed to drive up to 100 kilometers per hour.

The aircraft, which is controlled remotely from the ground, has two parallel wings with 36 electric motors that point down at takeoff and then tilt backwards for level flight.

Lilium plans to keep its US transportation network ready for commercial flights by 2025. Vertiport locations must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Florida Department of Transportation, and other regulatory agencies.

When asked how much flights would cost to take off, Remo Gerber, Lilium’s Chief Operating Officer, said it was comparable to flying “Business Class”.

“In the course of time we are very committed to creating a cheaper means of transport,” said Gerber on Wednesday in a virtual press conference. “We sometimes even go so far as to say five to ten years after the launch that it is entirely conceivable that it will actually come at a price that is similar to driving your own car.”

The project is expected to create more than 100 jobs in Orlando, Lilium said.

The Orlando hub is Lilium’s second hub worldwide – the first for Germany was announced in September. Lilium is a well-funded startup that has received a total of $ 375 million in investments from companies like Chinese tech giant Tencent, early Tesla investor Baillie Gifford, and venture capital firm Atomico.

In addition to Lilium, several companies are vying for a role in the emerging air taxi sector – Uber China’s EHang and the German company Volocopter, to name just a few examples.

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