Commercial, Personal/Corporate

Investors Are Backing Air Taxis, Flying Cars with Millions of US Dollars

By S.L. Fuller | September 5, 2017

XTI-TriFan-600-rooftop-dawn

Image courtesy of XTI Aircraft Corp

German flying car startup Lilium Aviation has completed a Series B funding round worth $90 million. The company said Tuesday the investment will be used for the development of its five-seat Lilium Jet and for the development of its current team.

In December 2016, the company said it had completed a Series A funding round worth more than $10.7 million.

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XTI Aircraft Company has resumed its equity crowdfunding campaign for its TriFan 600, after what CEO Robert Labelle told R&WI Tuesday was one week of downtime.

In September 2016, XTI announced an engagement agreement with the New York investment bank Primary Capital, LLC for its $20 million Series B round.

In April at Uber’s Elevate Summit, Michael Linse, founder and managing director of Linse Capital, said that he and his business partner were launching Levitate Capital — an investment firm that writes checks exclusively for VTOL technology.

Urban air taxis and other VTOL flying car models may initially cause incredulous reactions. But companies are hiring experienced aviation professionals, and gaining the confidence of investors, progressing toward a certifiable aircraft.

“As the industry matures, we’re going to be looking to deploy larger checks to the companies that we think are going to be the winners in the industry,” Linse said at the summit in Dallas. “We’re very much looking to identify the companies who we think will, in the next 10 years, be the winners in this space and deploy much larger check sizes behind that.”

The topic of investment had its own panel at the Uber Elevate summit — Lilium Aviation also had time to speak during the event. Uber will continue its discussions about its plans for urban air mobility at R&WI’s Rotorcraft Business and Technology Summit later this month in Fort Worth, Texas. As the money comes in, companies have been able to bring their seemingly futuristic ideas to the present.

Lilium’s two-seat Eagle Lilium Jet prototype took its maiden flight in April. The company said it performed multiple maneuvers, including a mid-air transition from hover to wing-borne forward flight.

LaBelle said XTI plans to bring a one-third mockup of its six-seat TriFan 600 to the National Business Aircraft Association Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in October. Although the company has spoken publicly of its TriFan 600 before, XTI considers the upcoming NBAA event as its “ launch.”

“We’re expecting to book orders and make announcements,” he told R&WI. “We really haven’t done that before at that level.”

Lilium said its Series B funding group consists of Tencent; LGT, the international private banking and asset management group; Atomico, a Series A backer founded by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström; and Obvious Ventures, whose co-founder Ev Williams is Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO. The investment, the company said, brings its total capital raised to more than $100 million.

The jet would be able to travel at more than 186 mph for one hour on a single charge.

Lilium Jet

Photo courtesy of Lilium Aviation

“Transportation technologies play a fundamental role in structuring our everyday lives. Lilium’s electric powered [electric] VTOL aircraft offers new mobility options that can benefit people around the world,” said David Wallerstein, chief exploration officer at Tencent. “From under-developed regions with poor road infrastructure, to the developed world with traffic congestion and sprawl, new possibilities emerge when convenient daily flight becomes an option for all of us.”

XTI’s one-week crowdfunding break was due to a slow U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission signoff, LaBelle explained. Companies making Regulation A offerings that last more than a year are required to submit an annual update for the commission to sign off on. But its crowdfunding platform StartEngine is accepting investments once again.

The TriFan 600 would travel more than 300 mph with a range of 1,200 miles. Its design has three duct fans lifting it off the ground vertically. Then its two wing fans would rotate forward, transition to cruise speed and initial climb. In just 10 minutes, the company claims, the aircraft would reach 30,000 feet.

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