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By Elan Head

An award-winning journalist, Elan is also a commercial helicopter pilot and an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor with helicopter and instrument ratings. Follow her on Twitter @elanhead

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Air taxi maker Lilium will rely on data software from Palantir

Electric air taxi startup Lilium has entered into a five-year enterprise subscription contract with one of its investors, Palantir Technologies, to access Palantir’s Foundry software platform for data integration.

Lilium Jet Orlando vertiport
A rendering of the eVTOL Lilium Jet at a planned vertiport with Tavistock Development Group near Orlando, Florida. Lilium Image

The contract was disclosed in Palantir’s latest quarterly report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Also revealed was the amount of its investment in Lilium: $41 million, contingent upon Lilium’s successful combination with the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Qell Acquisition Corp. Palantir was identified in March as one of a number of contributors to the $450 million private investment in public equity (PIPE) associated with the deal.

The filing does not discuss the terms of the contract. Palantir reported that its average revenue per customer over the past year was $8.1 million, but it also offers Foundry to customers at little or no cost for initial pilot programs.

In Palantir’s May 11 earnings call, chief operating officer Shyam Sankar said that Lilium will “use Foundry to build an integrated business from the ground up, incorporating design and engineering, procurement, testing, production, quality, logistics, and in-service operations.”

In relying on Foundry, Lilium joins Sarcos Robotics, a maker of robotic systems and exoskeletons that is also going public through a SPAC merger with a PIPE contribution from Palantir.

“We are investing in innovation in the West, backing companies with ambitious goals and executing on our ability to move down market,” Sankar continued. “And the fit is natural; our software can radically accelerate production ramps and time to market and help these companies get to scale on dramatically shorter time horizons.”

That could be critical for Lilium, which has the ambitious goal of launching a commercial passenger service with its eVTOL Lilium Jet by 2024, even though it has yet to build a prototype of its seven-seat production model.

Specializing in big data analytics, Palantir was founded in 2003 with backing from venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Its platforms are used by a number of Western government agencies, most notoriously U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Palantir is still heavily reliant on government revenue but is actively seeking to expand its commercial customer base. Airbus has been working with Palantir since 2016, first to improve efficiencies in its A350 production line and then on the launch of Skywise, an open data platform for the aviation industry that is used by around 130 airlines.

Last year, former Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the New York Times that bringing in Palantir was “one of the best decisions of my career.” Enders is now a member of Lilium’s board.

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