The city of Orlando, Florida, along with the Tavistock Development Company and Lilium, announced on Nov. 11, 2020, that Lake Nona — adjacent to Orlando International Airport (MCO) — would be the site of what it called the first eVTOL vertiport in the world.
Lake Nona’s central location provides the opportunity to connect more than 20 million Floridians within a 186-mile [300 km] radius, serving several major cities including Orlando and Tampa. The Lake Nona vertiport will create more than 100 jobs in the Orlando area, with hundreds more to follow across Florida.
During the press conference, Gerber stated that the company hoped that its Lilium Jet aircraft would be certificated as early as the beginning of 2024: "certification is going to take place somewhere between now and at some point in 2024, early 2024, roughly in that order of magnitude in that time frame...." Gerber also noted that it had a range able to connect much of the state of Florida, due to its design optimized for long range; Miami was shown as being within the 186-mile (300 km) range, although that range has been heavily caveated before, as best case, no reserve, with additional battery improvements. Notably, Gerber remarked that the aircraft was 10 times more efficient in cruise than in hover; said another way, the aircraft requires 10 times more power for hover than cruise.
Commenting on the ground-breaking partnership, Dr. Remo Gerber, Chief Operating Officer, Lilium said:
We are thrilled to partner with Tavistock and build the first stretch of Florida’s high-speed electric transportation network with Central Florida at its core. It shows that regional high-speed air mobility can be built by private initiative and give communities such as Lake Nona, which can also serve Orlando and arrivals from its international airport, the ability to determine themselves whether they want a link into a high-speed transportation network.
City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer proffered:
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. We have been focused on finding the right partners to be a global leader in the advanced air mobility space. I’m thrilled that our progressive and collaborative environment has created an opportunity for this unique partnership between the City of Orlando, Lilium and Lake Nona to invest in the expansion of safe, efficient and environmentally friendly transportation options throughout one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.
Discussing the partnership, Tavistock Managing Director (and former CFO of Signature Flight Support) Ben Weaver said:
We are delighted to partner with Lilium to create the first US network of vertiports and to launch within Lake Nona’s living lab allowing unrivaled connectivity unlike anything developed in the country to date. This partnership and network launch highlight our community’s passion and commitment to groundbreaking partnerships and new technologies that sets us apart as a city of the future. Lilium’s core mission of transport which not only supports bringing the region together, but also provides a solution to environmental issues, is incredibly impressive.
Of course, the vertiport is subject to approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and other regulatory agencies. The Lilium aircraft is undergoing certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the FAA and "will operate under existing regulatory frameworks," Lilium said in the press release.
Described as the “Future of Cities” by Fortune magazine, Lake Nona provides "an unmatched location contiguous to the Orlando International Airport, the origination site of more than half of the region’s 75 million annual visitors, with a robust economy and infrastructure ready to support the US launch of electric air mobility."
In addition to the airport, Orlando’s "aerotropolis" includes a number of aviation companies and services, including several within Lake Nona, which is home to BBA Aviation/Signature Flight Support and SimCom Aviation Training, which recently announced the creation of its new global headquarters that will train approximately 10,000 pilots each year.
According to the Orlando Business Journal:
The city has been bullish on the use of flying taxis that transport people short distances through the air. Vertical takeoff vehicles are a point of emphasis in the city’s Future Ready Master Plan, a tech-focused plan that will guide the rollout of new programs and policies to advance internet connectivity, autonomous vehicles and more. The draft plan, which is being finalized, calls for the city to work with private companies that operate electric vertical takeoff vehicles to bring facilities to Orlando and connect it with other Southeastern cities.
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