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Lilium, manufacturer of the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) Lilium Jet, is heading East.

The German manufacturer on Monday signed a collaboration agreement with the Bao’an District of Shenzhen, China, one of the massive city’s nine subdivisions, to establish its Asia-Pacific region (APAC) headquarters through a new Chinese entity called Powerful Wing. 

The agreement builds on Lilium’s previously announced deals with the Bao’an District and Heli-Eastern, a Chinese general aviation transport and helicopter services company that plans to order 100 Lilium Jets, signed in June 2023.

Lilium said it is in the process of opening the headquarters—Bao’an’s first regional office for a European eVTOL manufacturer—within the district’s Low Altitude Economy Industry Public Service Center. Local recruitment in the Shenzhen region is expected to begin this year.

“China represents a huge opportunity for the eVTOL industry, and this partnership with the Bao’an District will expand our footprint even further in China,” said Klaus Roewe, CEO of Lilium. “We believe the Lilium Jet is well placed to meet the demands of customers in China and across the region.”

Lilium on Monday reiterated that it intends to expand Lilium Jet operations across China and the surrounding APAC region. The all-electric, seven-seat jet is designed to cruise at 162 knots on trips spanning 25 to 125 sm (22 to 109 nm). The design, which includes 36 electric ducted fans embedded in fixed wings, sacrifices some hover efficiency for greatly improved efficiency during cruise and keeps noise to a minimum, Lilium says.

The partnership will initially focus on China’s Greater Bay Area, encompassing Guangdong and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau—home to an estimated 85 million people.

The manufacturer’s regional headquarters will help it manage Lilium Jet sales, services, and support and open partnerships with local customers, infrastructure developers, and regulators in China’s low altitude economy—an analog to the advanced air mobility (AAM) industry taking shape in the U.S. and Europe.

The firm will work with infrastructure providers, for example, to build an ecosystem that is compatible with its flagship aircraft and will participate in “low altitude economy industry events,” such as trade shows and demonstrations.

“We are proud to welcome Lilium to Bao’an District as part of our shared mission to build the low altitude economy of the future,” said Yong Ni, a representative of the Bao’an District. “This valuable collaboration will create exciting new opportunities and support the development of the necessary infrastructure to bring sustainable regional aviation to Shenzhen.”

Lilium estimates the Chinese market will account for about one-quarter of the global eVTOL industry, and it plans to certify the Lilium Jet with China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC). The regulator in October awarded manufacturer EHang the world’s first eVTOL type certificate and is on pace to introduce eVTOL aircraft at scale more quickly than its counterparts to the West.

Beyond the Bao’an District and Heli-Eastern, Lilium has a partnership with Citic Offshore Helicopter Co.—China’s sole helicopter port pilotage provider—to build an operational network for the Lilium Jet in the Greater Bay Area, including in Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macau, Hainan Island, and Tianjin. Notably, Tianjin is in the north of the country, hundreds of miles from Shenzhen.

Outside China, Lilium also intends to fly in the Philippines in partnership with private and commercial operator PhilJets, which may purchase as many as 10 aircraft.

The manufacturer in December began building an initial group of production prototype aircraft, which it will use to conduct flight testing with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It expects to achieve piloted flight by year’s end, with type certification following in 2025.

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