The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Lilium Enters China Market As Heli-Eastern Agrees to Buy 100 eVTOL Aircraft

Lilium now plans to introduce its Lilium Jet eVTOL aircraft into the Chinese market. During the Paris Air Show this week, the German manufacturer announced its first purchase agreement with a Chinese operator, as well as plans to open a regional headquarters in China. 

Shenzhen East General Aviation (Heli-Eastern) has agreed to purchase 100 Lilium Jet eVTOL aircraft, which it intends to operate throughout China’s heavily populated Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The company operates business aircraft and helicopters.

“With Lilium’s premium cabin design and innovative electric jet technology, our customers can travel throughout the Greater Bay Area and beyond quickly and sustainably,” said Heli-Eastern chairman Zhao Qi.

As part of the agreement, Heli-Eastern and Lilium will also explore a possible future partnership on ground infrastructure. For instance, the two companies might work together to identify potential locations and partners for vertiports within the region. 

Lilium’s new Asia-Pacific headquarters—its first regional headquarters outside of Germany—will be located in the Bao’an district of Shenzhen in China’s Guangdong province, Lilium announced on Monday. The Bao’an municipality and Lilium have signed a memorandum of understanding for the joint development of eVTOL services using the Lilium Jet in the Asia-Pacific region, with an initial focus on the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. 

According to Lilium CEO Klaus Roewe, China could potentially account for up to 25 percent of the global eVTOL air taxi market. “We see significant potential for Lilium’s eVTOL network in the Greater Bay Area, both to reach this important premium market, as well as to offer the sustainable, time-saving benefits of the Lilium Jet to as many people as possible,” Roewe said. 

There are at least three Chinese companies developing eVTOL aircraft. These include EHang, which says it is close to getting domestic type certification for its EH216 autonomous vehicle, AutoFlight, and TCab Tech. Germany's Volocopter has also made moves to get into the Chinese advanced air mobility market in partnership with automotive group Geely Technology.

Following the new order from Heli-Eastern, Lilium says it now has collected an order backlog of 745 Lilium Jet eVTOL aircraft from customers in Europe, the U.S., South America, and the Middle East.

UrbanV to Develop Vertiports In Italy and the South of France

Meanwhile, vertiport developer UrbanV is to work with Lilium to establish ground infrastructure for eVTOL aircraft operations in Italy and the south of France. The companies announced their partnership on Wednesday, saying the collaboration could potentially be expanded to other markets for the six-passenger Lilium aircraft.

According to Italy-based UrbanV, the company already has access to airports in Rome, Venice, Bologna, Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, and other locations along the French Riviera. “At UrbanV, we aim to improve people’s lives by enabling a fast, efficient, safe, and clean alternative to existing transport solutions,” said the company’s chairman Ivan Bassato. “With our vertiport networks, we are building a technology-agnostic platform for operators to provide new and innovative zero-emission transport services.”

With a range of 155 miles, Lilium sees its aircraft as supporting new regional air services, rather than the shorter intra-urban trips for which many eVTOL aircraft are intended. The Lilium Jet has 30 electric ducted fans installed in its wing and canard.