Lilium to launch U.S. hub for flying taxis in Orlando, Florida

Lilium’s five-seater air taxi can be seen flying over an airfield in southern Germany in new footage released by the firm.LiliumGerman aviation start-up Lilium on Wednesday signed a deal with the city of Orlando, Florida, to launch the first U.S. transportation hub for its flying taxis.The Munich-based group plans to build a so-called “vertiport” in Lake Nona, a planned futuristic smart city near Orlando International Airport. It’s partnered with local property developer Tavistock Development to design and construct the project.Lilium’s ultimate vision is to roll out a network of air taxis, with an app to hail the vehicles in similar fashion to Uber. It’s one of many companies building drone-like aircraft that take off and land vertically like a helicopter.The company says its five-seater all-electric Lilium Jet, which debuted last year, is expected to reach speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour — or 186 miles per hour. It managed to clock up to 100 kilometers per hour in a demonstration last year.The aircraft, which is piloted remotely from the ground, has two parallel wings fitted with 36 electric engines that face downward on takeoff and then tilt back for horizontal flight.Lilium plans to have its U.S. transportation network ready for commercial flights by 2025. Its vertiport locations are subject to approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, Florida Department of Transportation and other regulators.When asked how much flights will cost at launch, Remo Gerber, Lilium’s chief operating officer said it would be comparable to commercial “business class” trips.”Over time, we are very committed on creating a more affordable mode of transportation,” Gerber said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. “We sometimes even go as far as to say five to 10 years post-launch, it is entirely conceivable it might actually come down to a price point similar to driving your own car.”The project is expected to create more than 100 jobs in Orlando, Lilium said.The Orlando hub will mark Lilium as a well-funded start-up, having received investment totalling $375 million from the likes of Chinese tech giant Tencent, early Tesla investor Baillie Gifford and venture capital firm Atomico.Alongside Lilium, several companies are vying for a role in the nascent air taxi space — Uber China’s EHang and German firm Volocopter, to name a couple of examples.

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