German air taxi firm plans Orlando ‘vertiport’

Munich-based firm Lilium has unveiled plans for an electric air taxi hub in Orlando that will serve destinations across the state of Florida.

Based at Lake Nona, a so-called ‘smart city’ located just to the southeast of Orlando International Airport, the new facility is slated to connect around 20 million people in the sunshine state using Lilium’s electric air taxi. The five-seater eVTOL (electric, vertical take-off and landing) aircraft – known as the Lilium Jet – uses 36 electric jet engines and has no tail, rudder, propellers, or gearbox. Its first demonstrator flight took place near Munich in May 2019.

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The main wings of the Lilium Jet house 24 engines, while a smaller wing bank at the front of the plane is home to the remaining 12. Maximum power output of 2,000 horsepower is available for take-off and landing, but Lilium claims less than 10 per cent of this will be required for cruising flight. According to the company, the air taxi’s 60-minute run time gives it a range of around 300km, putting Florida cities like Jacksonville, Tampa and potentially even Miami within reach of the Lake Nona ‘vertiport’.

(Credit: Lilium)

The German firm claims that the facility will be the first of its kind in the US and plans for operations to be underway at Lake Nona by 2025, subject to approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulatory agencies. The project is a partnership with the City of Orlando alongside Tavistock Development Company, a Florida firm that has played a central role in the evolution of Lake Nona as a ‘smart city’.

“We are thrilled to partner with Tavistock and build the first stretch of Florida’s high-speed electric transportation network with Central Florida at its core,” said Dr Remo Gerber, chief operating officer at Lilium.

(Credit: Lilium)

“It shows that regional high-speed air mobility can be built by private initiative and give communities such as Lake Nona, which can also serve Orlando and arrivals from its international airport, the ability to determine themselves whether they want a link into a high-speed transportation network.”

Founded in Munich in 2015, Lilium has so far attracted more than $375m in venture capital and currently employs round 600 people. While Lake Nona has been selected as a flagship location for its air taxi operations, the company is planning to be up and running in multiple countries and regions by 2025.