Why Florida residents may soon be seeing jet-powered ‘flying taxis’


Why Florida residents may soon be seeing jet-powered ‘flying taxis’

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Florida is renowned for its strange news stories. In recent weeks alone, one resident reported an alligator in her garage that turned out to be a pool floatie; another discovered a python in her washing machine; and a horse needed to be pulled out of a septic tank by firefighters.

Still, don’t dismiss Orlando residents who report seeing flying taxis overhead, because they may just be coming. Lilium Aviation, a five-year-old, Munich, Germany-based, venture-backed startup that designs and makes electric vertical take-off and landing jets, is reportedly seeking tax incentives from the city to build a 56,000-square-foot transportation hub with the promise that it will create 100 high-wage jobs in return.

Lilium unveils five-seater air taxi prototype after a successful maiden flight for its latest jet

According to the Orlando Business Sentinel, the proposed facility — a takeoff and landing area that would be part of Lilium’s first transportation network in the U.S. — would represent a $25 million investment and, according to the city’s own estimates, generate $1.7 million in economic impact in a 10-year period. (Lilium in September began separately exploring with Germany’s Düsseldorf Airport and Cologne Bonn Airport how to turn the two airports into regional air mobility hubs.)

It’s seemingly a smart time for Lilium — whose planes aren’t expected to be up and running until 2025 — to be talking with cities about additional airport revenue. Passenger traffic has fallen through the floor, owing to the pandemic, and cargo traffic has not been immune, either. Meanwhile, 95% of revenue from airports comes from aeronautical and non-aeronautical services.

Lilium also has a little more spending money after raising $35 million in fresh funding in June led by Baillie Gifford, the largest investor in Tesla — a round that brought the company’s total funding to date to $375 million.

Lilium adds $35M from Baillie Gifford at a $1B+ valuation for its electric aircraft taxi service

Earlier investors in the company include Atomico, Tencent Holdings and Freigeist.

We sat down with Atomico founder Niklas Zennström in late 2016 when the firm had just led a €10 million Series A in Lilium. At the time, the bet seemed early, despite the existence of rivals like Terrafugia and AeroMobile, yet such vehicles may be an everyday reality sooner than imagined. Investors and founders seem to think so, at least. There are now at least 15 so-called flying cars and taxis in development.

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