A start-up company—hosted in a European Space Agency (ESA) business incubator center (BIC) Bavaria—released an idea for an egg-shaped two-seater plane called Lilium that’s currently in the works. With a top speed of 250 mph and a range of 300 miles, the plane can travel roughly between Munich and Berlin in about 90 minutes. And according to the ESA, if the testing succeeds, this will be the world’s first vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for personal use.
The Lilium vehicle combines the benefits of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft while avoiding their drawbacks. While initially restricted to airfields, the goal is for it to take off vertically from almost anywhere – even from back gardens – it needs only an open flat area of about 15×15 meters.
Although taking off and landing like a helicopter, by swivelling its engines it also functions as a very efficient aircraft that can travel at up to 400 km/h.
Entirely electric, the plane is much quieter during takeoff than helicopters thanks to its ducted fan engines. Its batteries, engines and controllers are redundant, making it a much safer design than conventional helicopters.
The team at Lilium is working on designing the interior and exterior of the electric jet. With lower retail cost than similar-sized aircraft at approximately $340,000 and lower running and energy costs at approximately $3 per 100 km (62 miles) and $0.3 per kWh respectively, the Lilium “addresses a very promising market in the field of sustainable and smart mobility,” said Thorsten Rudolph, CEO of Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), which runs the incubator ESA BIC Bavaria.
The electric aircraft under development by ESA BIC Bavaria start-up Lilium needs only an open flat area of about 15×15 m for vertical takeoff and landing.
The plane is classed as a Light Sport Aircraft for two occupants, with the pilot’s license requiring 20 hours’ minimum training – almost like taking a driving license.
It is intended for recreational flying during daylight, in good weather conditions and in uncongested airspace up to 3 km altitude.
Using computer control for vertical takeoff and landing is essential for a vehicle targeted at the consumer market for personal transportation.
SOURCES – European Space Agency, Lilium, Forbes