A very well-financed German startup has announced plans to establish a physical infrastructure in Florida for a fleet of passenger-carrying air taxis. These eVTOL vehicles, powered by multiple small electric engines, can be flown with a pilot – or as an autonomous drone.
We all know the aviation world is changing rapidly. Companies like China’s EHang are betting there will be a significant market for short hops in the sky. And now, German startup Lilium and a partner have announced plans to bring that future a little bit closer. Lilium and Ferrovial SE, a huge infrastructure company that owns 25% of London’s Heathrow Airport, plan to build a series of hubs in Florida for Lilium’s aircraft.
That’s pretty significant.
These hubs will be called Vertiports, a nod to the Lilium aircraft’s eVTOL design. Rather than simply short urban hops above cities, it sounds like these Vertiports will be part of a regional air network in the state. Here’s more from Ferrovial’s news release:
Ferrovial, a global leading infrastructure operator, and Lilium, the aviation company developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) jet aircraft, have signed a framework agreement to develop a network of at least 10 vertiports. The zero-carbon infrastructure and services will cover strategic locations in all major cities across Florida. This partnership seeks to provide an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative transport network connecting locations across Florida.
And here’s more, specifically, on those Vertiports:
Vertiports are a key component in realizing the enormous potential of innovations in eVTOL aviation, providing infrastructure for landing, recharging, and taking off with passengers. Ferrovial and Lilium will collaborate in designing and constructing the vertiport facilities as well as the operation and maintenance of the vertiports for passenger service. The first location in South Florida will be announced as soon as Spring 2021.
Let’s have a look at Lilium’s aircraft:
We love the design of this thing, which can carry five passengers in drone mode, or four passengers plus a pilot:
A major step forward for Lilium
This is a very significant development. If you ever had any doubts that these kinds of projects would get off the ground… you can put them to rest.
“Our partnership with Ferrovial to develop flight infrastructure, is a critical step in delivering the potential of regional air mobility to provide high-speed, affordable, emissions-free travel to millions of people,” says Daniel Wiegand, Lilium’s chief executive officer and cofounder.
“As we accelerate our launch plans, Lilium is committed to partnering with industry leaders, bringing together their strengths and experience with our aircraft technology and passenger service infrastructure. We’re excited about what we will achieve together.”
It’s also a big deal for Ferrovial:
At Ferrovial, we are determined to conceptualize, design, and build the future of transport and mobility infrastructures. In this case, we partner with Lilium, one of the leading companies in this nascent urban air mobility ecosystem to deliver an innovative mode of transport that will shorten distances and improve quality of life for citizens.
Rafael Fernandez, Ferrovial innovation director
A well-financed unicorn
Lilium raised $275 million last year, and is now valued at more than $1 billion.
The aircraft features 36 electric engines and can reach a top speed of 187 mph (300 kph). Here are a few more features, in this grab from Lilium’s website.
We love the look of this design and wish both companies success in this new venture.