Tencent Putting Investment into Flying Taxi Operations

September 13, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

If there was one thing that anyone who grew up watching The Jetsons—or at least reruns of same—craved about the amorphous concept of “the future”, it was the flying car. The idea of getting into a vaguely scarab-shaped bubble and flying to your destination at surprising speeds left everyone a little future-hungry. It’s a development that Tencent—the guys behind WeChat Pay—have been working on, and they’re being joined by some major cryptocurrency operations as well.

Tencent, along with some support from Freigeist, is adding some funding to Lilium, a German company hard at work on the first vertical takeoff and landing (vertol) vehicle powered solely by electricity, that can be used as a five-seat flying taxi service. Tencent’s funding, along with the others involved, has pushed Lilium to a $90 million Series B funding round, giving it plenty of cash to pursue the flying cab.

Many of the firms involved also have connections to both bitcoin and the blockchain in general, with some believing that the blockchain might represent the next big thing in cryptocurrency and mobile payments. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that the blockchain might be the biggest part of the cryptocurrency market, but it’s the first time we’ve seen it connected to flying cab services. Indeed, Freigeist, one of the other investors, was also an investor in the Outbank multi-banking application that built bitcoin access right into its services.

Calling the two concepts connected might be a bit of a bridge too far at this stage of the game, but since we’ve seen airborne drones connected to store deliveries, the concept of larger drones being used to deliver people isn’t that far out of line. In fact, with just a little extra regulation—just a little—the concept could be quite effectively used. A few different strata to let the various vehicles operate and the end result should be smooth flying.

Throw in mobile payments and cryptocurrency use, meanwhile, and you’ve got an easy, low-impact way to pay the fares involved. The recent Chinese government moves in bitcoin may have something to say about how people pay the fares on their flying taxi in Beijing, but Tencent looks like it’s eager to join the mass rush to get these vehicles in play to begin with.