Flying Taxis Prepare for Launch in Orlando

If a German-based startup gets its way, Central Florida will be the first region in the United States to fill the skies with flying taxis.

November 15, 2020, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Flying Taxis

Lake Nona Vertiport / Lilium and Lake Nona

Jonathan Hillburg reports: "It looks like German flying taxi startup Lilium is beating Uber to the skyways, as the Munich-based company revealed [on November 11] that it’s planning to build a 'vertiport' in Orlando, Florida, and hoping to have passengers in the air by 2025."

The news has been brewing for a week or so, since Alex Soderstrom reported that Lilium is seeking tax incentives from Orlando to build the vertiport. According to Soderstrom, the facility is planned to total 56,000 square feet and create more than 100 jobs. The Orlando City Council considered the development agreement on its consent agenda at its November 9 hearing. The vertiport is planned for a location in the master planned community of lake Nona, within the city limits of Orlando.

The positioning of Orlando as the first city to openly embrace aerial transportation has also been brewing for awhile, according to Soderstrom. "Vertical takeoff vehicles are a point of emphasis in the city’s Future Ready Master Plan, a tech-focused plan that will guide the rollout of new programs and policies to advance internet connectivity, autonomous vehicles and more." That plan just restarted work after a pandemic-induced pause.

Back to Hillburg's coverage of the design and plan reveal of the proposed facility, here's what we know about how the facility will work:

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.

Yet another article by Andrew J. Hawkins puts the Lilium model in context of the Central Florida region as well as the wider regional aerial transportation market. "Lilium isn’t the only company with designs for flying taxis. There are more than 100 different electric aircraft programs in development worldwide, with big names including Joby AviationVolocopterEhang, and Wisk Aero, as well as planned offerings from HyundaiToyotaAirbusBoeing, and Bell, which is partnered with Uber," reports Hawkins for The Verge.

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