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German flying taxi startup announces first US ‘vertiport’

written by Hannah Dowling | November 12, 2020
Conceptual design of the Lake Nona vertiport with the Lilium Jet (Lilium)

German flying taxi startup Lilium has announced plans to set up its first ‘vertiport’ hub in the United States near Orlando, Florida. 

Munich-based Lilium is developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) jet which can travel distances of up to 300km within one hour on a single charge, as well as its network of ‘vertiports’ designed specifically to cater to eVTOL aircraft.

The announcement of the Lake Nona Vertiport not only hopes to see an accessible regional air mobility network available to more than 20 million Florida residents within the 300km radius of the hub, but will also directly create more than 100 jobs in the Orlando area.

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Further, due to the fact that no runway is required, the cost of building a Vertiport is far lower than a traditional airport, approximately ranging from 1-2 million euros (US$1.18 – 2.35 million) for a basic landing zone to 7-15 million euros ($8-$18 million) for a major rooftop hub.

The hub will service the company’s creation, the Lilium Jet – a five-seater fixed-wing aircraft, powered by 36 electric engines which point down for takeoff and tilt to the rear for horizontal flight.

According to the startup, it requires a qualified pilot at the controls, and uses about as much power as an electric vehicle travelling the same distance.

Having already undergone flight testing, the jet is currently awaiting regulatory approval.

Lilium has made the announcement in partnership with Tavistock Development Group, the private investment group developing the Lake Nona region into a futuristic smart city near the Orlando International Airport.

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According to Lilium, this made Lake Nona the ideal location for its first US hub.

The hub, complete with Lilium’s network of eVTOL vehicles, is due to start operations in 2025.

It would represent Lilium’s second vertiport, following its first already planned in Dusseldorf, the capital of Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

While many are currently in the race to develop, test, certify and manufacture electric air taxis, five-year-old Lilium is well positioned to take charge, backed by $375 million in investor funding.

If approved by aviation authorities, the Lilium Jet could see travellers skip traffic and reach their destinations for around the same cost as an Uber, according to chief operating officer Remo Gerber.

“It’s a hundred times safer than helicopters. Pricing is five to 10 times cheaper,” Gerber told the media.

“Lilium’s core mission of transport which not only supports bringing the region together, but also provides a solution to environmental issues, is incredibly impressive,” said Tavistock managing director Ben Weaver.

The City of Orlando is also backing the project, which Mayor Buddy Dyer described as an “expansion of safe, efficient and environmentally friendly transportation options throughout one of the fastest growing regions in the country”.

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