Air taxi hub to be established in Florida

The US’s first regional hub for flying cars is to be built in Orlando, Florida by the Tavistock Development Corp and aviation startup Lilium.

 The Lake Nona Vertiport will be built near Orlando International Airport in the Lake Nona community, which has ambitions to become a ‘smart city’ and is already home to medical and research facilities.

The facility will cover more than 5,000 square-metres and concept images suggest that it will resemble a small airport. It is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

Munich-based Lilium, which aims to establish a flying taxi service, will supply the aircraft. The company has been working to develop a small electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle for several years. In May 2019, its five-seat Lilium Jet prototype – which is powered by 36 electric motors and switches between vertical and horizontal movement by pivoting flaps on its wings – completed its maiden flight.

The Lilium Jet will travel almost 300km on a one-hour charge and reach speeds of up to 300km/hr, although it remains in development.

Passengers will be able to book reservations for a flight on their phones in a similar way to conventional ride-sharing. The vehicles will be able to carry four passengers and a pilot between Orlando and Tampa in half an hour, allowing them to avoid the inconvenience of traffic and airports.

The price will begin around the cost of a first-class ticket, but officials said that they hope this will decrease as the service becomes more popular.

According to the New York Times, the city of Orlando has granted more than $800,000 in potential tax rebates to Lilium to support the hub. City leaders expressed hope that the development would create high-paying, high-skilled jobs in the area; according to commissioner Jim Gray, the project will create around 140 jobs.

“For this new technology to truly reshape the transportation ecosystem and benefit Orlando residents long-term, it is going to take a true partnership between cities, developers, and transportation operators,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We have been focused on finding the right partners to be a global leader in the advanced air mobility space.”

The Lake Nona Vertiport is applying for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation.

Earlier this year, Lilium announced deals with Cologne/Bonn and Dusseldorf airports to explore how the airports could establish themselves as hubs of a regional air-mobility network in North Rhine-Westphalia.