This flying car startup will bring a “vertiport” to Orlando


It looks like the German air taxi startup Lilium was about to hit Uber in the air when the Munich-based company announced yesterday that it plans to build a “Vertiport” in Orlando, Florida, with the hope of delivering passengers by 2025 to have in the air.

The first US Vertiport announced for the 17 acre planned “smart” community of Lake Nona in Orlando is disappointingly horizontal. The 56,000-square-foot facility looks more like a fairly typical airport building than the exotic and futuristic electric vertical take-off and landing towers (eVTOL) proposed by competitors. From the renderings, Lilium’s electric mini-jets would roll in and take off from a single-story, Y-shaped vertiport that was likely kept short to fit the low-lying mixed-use neighborhood. With the expansion of Lilium, the company also expects to use different Vertiport typologies depending on the location.

Instead of the more drone-like air taxis proposed by Boeing, Bell, and others, Lilium uses a fixed-wing jet design that can accommodate up to five passengers at a time. However, 36 electric motors mounted on each cab can rotate to produce either horizontal or vertical thrust, and each cab can ultimately travel up to 186 miles at 186 mph on a single charge.

A map of the Florida Peninsula showing the range of the Lake Nona Vertiport. (Courtesy Lilium)

This range reportedly played an important role in the location of the first vertiport, as Lake Nona is in what Lilium calls the “Aerotropolis”. In addition to being within a 186-mile radius of 20 million residents, travelers could easily get to Orlando International Airport. According to The Verge, Lilium has promised that traveling by air would be much faster than driving, and that the Orlando to Tampa commute could be cut from two hours to half an hour … assuming the startup can actually build an electric plane to do so in the Location. So far, humans have not flown the prototype jet.

For the construction of the $ 25 million Vertiport, Lilium worked with the City of Orlando and Florida’s Tavistock Development Company to develop and build the complex. While it still has some regulatory hurdles to overcome and prove that its technology can get people around safely, Orlando City Council has reportedly been considering offering the company a $ 831,250 tax discount to bring its Vertiport into town.


Janet Smith