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Lilium launch flying electric taxi

16/05/2019
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German startup Lilium have announced a successful first test of their all-electric five-seater aircraft, that’s said to have a range of 300km and a top speed of 300km/h.

Lilium aim to have air taxis operating out of cities by 2025
(Image via Lilium)

The initial test saw the unpiloted aircraft taking off vertically, hovering and landing. It’s a major step towards the companies goals of having these air taxis operating in cities by 2025. 

“While a maiden flight is always a moment of truth for a business, the Lilium Jet performed exactly as expected and responded well to our inputs,” said Daniel Wiegand, Lilium’s co-founder and CEO.

“Our flight test program will now continue with increasingly complex maneuvers as we look towards our next big goal of achieving transition flight, which is when the aircraft moves seamlessly from vertical to horizontal flight.”

The startup was launched out of a business group at the European Space Agency (ESA), with the intention of dealing with urban congestion through clean, quiet, short distance air travel.

The company's goal is to have these aircraft landing on pads stationed in key city locations, carrying passengers to their destination quickly, without adding to traffic or pollution on the ground. As an example, they highlighted the journey from New York’s JFK airport to Manhatten, which can take 55 minutes by car, but just 5 minutes in the Lilium jet. 

The company claim their air taxi could take passengers from midtown Manhattan to JFK airport in under ten minutes
(Image via Lilium)

The design has an egg-shaped cabin, capable of carrying five passengers, with a pair of parallel, asymmetrical tilt-rotor wings. 36 electric jet engines allow it to take off vertically in confined spaces, before tilting to direct airflow over the wings and propel the aircraft forwards.

Due to the fixed-wing design and relative lack of moving parts (the jet has no tail, rudder, propellers or gearbox) the company say it’s able to use less than 10% of it’s maximum 2,000 horsepower during cruise flight - allowing it to cover greater distances at faster speeds than other electric aircraft.

The company has been developing the prototype since 2016
(Image via Lilium)

Lilium’s business model is to create an app-based on-demand feature, similar to Uber or Lyft, where customers can book their flights. They plan to have a human pilot on board each aircraft, allowing for an easier certification process. 

Currently the firm is in the process of securing certification for a flying taxi service from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration.

The first test flight saw the vehicle take off vertically, hover and then land
(Image via Lilium)

“We dream of a world where anyone can fly wherever they want, whenever they want,” said Weigand.

“We’ve invested a tremendous amount of thought and care into designing an aircraft and a service that will let us deliver this, meeting society’s demands for urban air travel that is quiet, safe and environmentally positive.”

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