Lilium picks a hub for its all-electric flying taxi service

Flying taxis are one step closer to lifting off in the US with paying passengers, with Lilium inking a deal with Orlando, Florida to put its first "Vertiport" hub in the state. Lilium is one of a number of companies working on all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet aircraft, figuring that relatively short-range hops between locations are the future of transportation.

The Lake Nona Vertiport will, as a result, be positioned to serve locations as far south as Miami and Naples, and as far north as Jacksonville and Gainesville, Lilium says. Its homegrown flying vehicle has a range of up to 186 miles on a single charge, and could apparently do that distance in an hour.

Shorter hops – such as Lake Nona to Daytona Beach – could be completed in as little as fifteen minutes, meanwhile, while Tampa would take under half an hour. Inside the aircraft there's seating for up to five passengers.

The hub itself is expected to be a three-spoke design, with an entrance atrium and then two rows of VTOL vehicle bays. A short taxi away would be a launching pad; since the aircraft can rotate their jets to face downward, they can leap straight into the air rather than requiring the sort of long runway even a regional airport would demand. At their destination, they could lower themselves onto a similarly sized pad.

Future hubs and other Vertiport designs are in the pipeline, meanwhile, with Lilium – and its partner, the Tavistock Development Company – envisaging custom architecture to suit the aesthetics of each location. If all goes to plan, Lake Nona will only be the first of the sites in Florida, with others springing up to connect the state in criss-cross flight paths.

Lilium first showed off its electric VTOL aircraft in action back in 2017, but it was only last year that the vehicle successfully demonstrated the transition between vertical take-off and horizontal flight. Two sets of wings are involved, with the prototypes studding them with 36 electric jet engines for a total of 2,000 horsepower.

There's still some way to go before you can skip the highway and use a Lilium jet instead, mind. FAA approval is still required, for a start, both for the Vertiport locations and the aircraft itself. Even assuming that goes to schedule, commercial operations aren't expected to begin until 2025 at the earliest.