TBARTA Explores Air Taxis as Innovative Transit of the Future

David Green
Executive Director
Phone: 813-282-8200

TAMPA, Fla. (July 17) –  Tampa Bay’s 21st century transit needs will require new and innovative transit technology, and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) continues to move forward. On Friday, the visionary German company Lilium made its first public presentation in the United States to TBARTA, with the TBARTA Board then voting to begin exploring next steps that could lead to a pilot project.

“Air taxis, especially if they come with requirements of certification, are among the most efficient means of transportation, if you look at it from a global economic perspective,” said Tassilo Wanner, Lilium’s VP of Global Public and Regulatory Affairs.  “You can do the Orlando-Tampa connection, and everything else in our radius of operational range, on very, very lean infrastructure.”

Lilium made big news last year with the first flight its five-seater Lilium Jet.  The electrically powered aircraft can take off and land vertically, using the power of 36 engines across two wings. That makes the technology especially attractive for flying between urban areas, as it lessens the need for airports. Instead, landing pads can be built in smaller areas, even on rooftops, the same as helicopters.

The battery powered Lilium Jet has a reported range of 186 miles and a top speed of 190 miles per hour.  Based on that, Wanner says a flight between downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg would take 8 minutes.  The initial cost is estimated at $60 to $90 per trip but would come down as flights become more frequent and technology advances to allow autonomous trips without a pilot.

“Really, the ultimate vision is to be able to commute with the Lilium Jet at a price that would be comparable to being in your own car,” said Lilium’s Marie Masson, who participated in the presentation from Munich, Germany.

Lilium also touts its environmentally friendly technology, through no-emission electric engines and low noise operation of the Lilium Jet.  Wanner points to a very high level of safety, saying the aircraft will be FAA certified and economically efficient.  “We can transport many, many people on a single vehicle, as small as it may be,” he said.

“We want to move forward and implement real mobility solutions, and what you’ve shown us today is definitely among the innovative transit options that TBARTA wants to bring to our region,” said TBARTA Chairman Jim Holton.  “I think there’s an incredible willingness on the part of this board and the community to move forward with air taxi service, and we would love to see Tampa Bay be the marquee project for demonstration in this state and perhaps the United States.”

With that, Pinellas County Commissioner and TBARTA Board member Janet Long made a motion to continue dialogue with Lilium to better understand what is needed to make Tampa Bay a pilot project site. The Board voted 8-0 in approval, with the TBARTA staff directed to follow-up promptly and bring additional information to the board meeting in August.

TBARTA has already demonstrated its ability to lead Tampa Bay into the regional transit future.  Funded with $1 million from the Florida legislature to investigate new technologies, TBARTA has just completed its Innovative Transit Technologies Feasibility Study, which not only looked at air taxis but also examined the technical, financial, and regulatory issues of hyperloop and aerial gondolas. 

For more information on this and other TBARTA initaitvies, contact Chris Jadick, TBARTA Communications Director, at 813-639-7743, or Chris.Jadick@Tbarta.com


The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) works to advance regional transportation needs in Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Our purpose is to plan, develop, fund, implement, and operate a world-class regional transit system in Tampa Bay. For more information, visit www.TBARTA.com.