German start-up Lilium Aviation recently conducted a successful test flight of its Lilium Jet prototype, the world’s first electric-powered vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet, which its makers hope will be operating as an air taxi by 2025.
Lilium Jet, the world’s very first electric VTOL aircraft, performed its first flight near Munich (GER) in April.
Developed by the German start-up Lilium Aviation and designed by four aerospace engineers, the jet takes off vertically like a helicopter and flies like a plane. The unmanned test flight passed off without a hitch, as the video broadcast by Lilium Aviation on its YouTube channel shows.
Operated from the ground
The ground-operated two-seater made an effortless transition from take off to flight, though its designers have been careful not to show it manoeuvring through the air. According to the start-up’s website, the engines "work like turbofan jet engines in a regular passenger jet", while Futura-Sciences notes that diagrams on the site show how the streamlined rotors work.
One of a kind
Lilium Jet boasts a unique powerplant made up of 36 electric fan engines, six of which are found on each front wing and 12 on each rear wing. At take-off, the jet’s flaps tilt vertically so that the engine can lift the aircraft. Once the jet is airborne, the flaps slowly move into a horizontal position, enabling the jet to accelerate.
Developing approximately 320kW (435hp) of power, the Lilium Jet has a take-off weight of 600kg and a range of 300km and can, according to its makers, reach a cruising speed of up to 300 kmh. Lilium Aviation also states that the propulsion system is made up of small individual components, which means that even if some of the engines fail, the system can still perform a vertical landing.
An Uber-style app
Designed for an urban environment, the Lilium Jet is set to develop into an autonomous vehicle, thanks to its manoeuvrability. Lilium Aviation is already working on a five-seater version and is also developing an Uber-style mobile app.
In offering an air taxi service, the German company’s trump card is speed. As reported by Neo Zone, a passenger using its service can travel the 19km separating Manhattan in New York from JFK Airport in a mere five minutes, all for the cost of only $36. In contrast, a conventional taxi would take 55 minutes to complete the 26km journey by road, and for a much higher fare (between $56 and $73).
Though the company has yet to announce when the jet will be launched on the market, it is expected to perform its first manned flight in 2019, while the taxi version should be operational by 2025.
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