Top high technology investors have doled out $90 million to Lilium, a German start-up with Silicon Valley-scale ambitions to develop a 5-passenger “flying taxi”.
This is one of the best-funded electric aircraft projects to date.
The company has emerged as one of Europe’s hottest start-ups as it looks to create a new category of aircraft capable of both vertical take-off and electric powered jet flight.
Lilium said the new funding, led by Chinese internet giant Tencent, also includes Liechtenstein-based LGT, Europe’s largest family-owned investment firm; European venture firm Atomico; and Obvious Ventures, whose co-founder, Evan Williams, is a co-founder of Twitter.
In April, Lilium said it was developing a five-seat “flying taxi” after mounting successful test flights of a full-size, two-seat jet capable of a mid-air transition from hover mode, like drones, to wing-borne flight, like conventional aircraft. Wing-borne, electric-powered flight allows commuter aircraft to travel five or six times the distance of drones, a Lilium executive said. Lilium said it plans to use the new funds to expand hiring and carry it through the next development stages of its 5-seater electric jet, buying it time to meet stringent regulatory approvals.
Lilium, which was founded in 2015 by four graduates from the Technical University of Munich, is shooting for a manned test flight of its five-seat aircraft around 2019, and to roll-out “flying taxi” commuter services, subject to regulatory approvals, some time in the next decade.