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Air taxi startups race for the skies

Take-off time for Lilium ...

Whose makers see a prototype for the future.

The Munich-based firm is one a clutch of startups working on battery-powered aircraft that can lift off vertically ...

Though - as CEO Daniel Wiegand explains in their promo video - theirs has an extra twist.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) LILIUM CO-FOUNDER AND CEO DANIEL WIEGAND, SAYING:

"So you have an airplane that takes off vertically like a helicopter but once it's in the air it accelerates into forward flight and flies with wind borne lifts and this way it achieves much higher speeds than cars but also higher speeds than a helicopter ..."

On Tuesday (October 22), Lilium declaring that its test taxi had achieved speeds of over 100 kilometres - or 62 miles - per hour ...

While piloted by remote control.

The firm now confident, it says, to expand production capacity ahead of a planned commercial launch in 2025.

Ultimately, its air taxi, it hopes, will be able to complete a 300 kilometre inter-city hop - in just one hour.

But the competition is getting ready too.

Marina Bay in Singapore on Tuesday saw Volocopter - a German rival to Lilium - carry out what it calls its own first:

A piloted flight in the heart of a megacity.

CEO Florian Reuter.


(SOUNDBITE) (English) VOLOCOPTER CEO, FLORIAN REUTER, SAYING:

"Many of the world's largest megacities are home in Asia. So obviously, this is a natural market to us ...There is a great need to revolutionise mobility, because simply with what we've done in the past, we're not going to counter, you know, this whole urbanisation trend, the pollution that's coming along with it and so on."

Backed by carmaker Daimler - and with plans for a partnership with China's Geely - Volocopter aims to have a service launched in Singapore ... as early as 2021.