The German start-up of air taxis, Lilium, has announced the first test of its five-seat fully electric and large-scale aircraft. This is the latest in a series of successful tests for the nascent electric flight industry, which aims to have "flying cars" over cities over the next ten years.
In a video provided by the Munich-based company, Lilium's unmanned aircraft can be seen flying vertically, like a helicopter, hovering briefly and landing. This may not seem like much, but it is a big step forward for the company, which hopes to launch a fully operational flying taxi service in several cities by 2025.
Compared to other pre-production electric planes we have seen so far, the Lilium Jet certainly stands out: it has an egg-shaped cabin perched on the landing gear with two asymmetrical parallel wings with tilting rotor. The wings are equipped with a total of 36 electric reactors that tilt for a vertical takeoff, and then move forward for a horizontal flight. There is no tail, rudder, propeller or gearbox. When finished, the Lilium Jet will have a range of 300 km and a top speed of 300 km / h (186 km / h), the company announced.
This is much further than many of its competitors predict for their electric aircraft. Remo Gerber, Lilium's chief compliance officer, said this was due to the aircraft's design, which requires less than 10% of its maximum power of 2,000 horsepower in cruising flight.
"We are super excited," said Gerber in an interview at The edge. "The first flight went exactly as planned."
The company has already performed test flights. In 2017, Lilium announced the first test flight of its all-electric two-seater vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) prototype. But if the prototype was able to demonstrate the passage from vertical flight to flight ahead, the large-scale jet Lilium did not do it.
The weight / power ratio is an important factor for electric flight. It is also one of its main inhibitors. Energy density – the amount of energy stored in a given system – is the key measure, and current batteries do not contain enough energy to get most planes off the ground. To make the difference: jet fuel gives us about 43 times more energy than a battery so heavy.
Gerber would give no details about the carrying capacity of the Lilium Jet, but he insisted that the Lilium Jet would eventually be able to carry five passengers and a pilot, as well as luggage. "Lilium's payload ratio is at the forefront of the industry, and that's what will make the difference," he said.
Unlike some of its competitors, Lilium plans to keep a human pilot aboard his aircraft. This will make the certification process easier, Gerber said. Lilium is in the process of obtaining five-seat air taxi certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency, and will also apply to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Gerber had more to say about the company's business model, which includes an on-demand, application-based feature that allows customers to book a flight via a smartphone app at Uber. Think of downtown Manhattan's JFK International Airport in less than 10 minutes for $ 70. (Currently, a company called Blade, which presents itself as "Uber for Helicopters," offers the same trip for $ 195.)
Lilium is not the only company that designs flying taxis. More than 100 different electric aircraft programs are being developed around the world, including Joby Aviation and Kitty Hawk, whose models use an electric rotor rather than jet engines, as well as planned airframe offers. Airbus, Boeing and Bell, in partnership with Uber.