It looks like German flying taxi startup Lilium is beating Uber to the skyways, as the Munich-based company revealed yesterday that it’s planning to build a “vertiport” in Orlando, Florida, with the hope to have passengers in the air by 2025.
Announced for the 17-acre planned “smart” community of Lake Nona in Orlando, the first vertiport in the U.S., from the renderings, is disappointingly horizontal. The 56,000-square-foot facility resembles a pretty typical airport terminal building, rather than the exotic and futuristic electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) towers proposed by competitors. From the renderings, Lilium’s electric mini jets would taxi and take off from a single-story, Y-shaped vertiport, likely kept short to fit in with the low-slung mixed-use neighborhood. As Lilium expands, the company also expects to deploy different vertiport typologies depending on the location.
Instead of the more drone-like flying taxis proposed by Boeing, Bell, and others, Lilium is using a fixed-wing jet design with capacity for up to five passengers at a time. However, 36 electric motors mounted on each taxi can rotate to provide either horizontal or vertical thrust, and each taxi will ultimately be able to travel up to 186 miles on a single charge at 186 miles per hour.
That range reportedly played a major factor in the first vertiport’s siting, as Lake Nona sits in what Lilium is calling the state’s “aerotropolis;” besides being able to reach 20 million residents in a 186-mile radius, travelers would be able to easily reach the Orlando International Airport. According to The Verge, Lilium has promised that traveling by air would be much faster than taking a car, and could cut the Orlando-to-Tampa commute from two hours to half-an-hour… assuming the startup can actually build an electric aircraft capable of doing so. To date, humans haven’t actually flown in the jet prototype yet.
To build the $25-million vertiport, Lilium has partnered with the City of Orlando and Florida’s Tavistock Development Company to develop and construct the complex. Although it still has to pass a number of regulatory hurdles and prove that its technology can ferry people around safely, Orlando’s City Council has reportedly considered offering the company an $831,250 tax rebate to bring its vertiport to the city.