The Lilium Jet successfully completed its maiden test flight series in the skies above Bavaria. The 2-seater Eagle prototype executed a range of complex maneuvers, including its signature mid-air transition from hover mode to wing-borne forward flight.
Lilium has invented a completely new aircraft concept for the modern age. While vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) itself is not new – after all, quadcopters, tilt rotors and tilt wings are well-known concepts – they did not want to accept the compromises inherent to these configurations.
Quadcopters excel with their simplicity but are highly inefficient in cruise flight. Transition aircraft can fly three times faster and ten times further with an equally sized battery, but system complexity is usually much higher.
The Lilium Jet consists of a rigid winged body with 12 flaps. Each one carries three electric jet engines. Depending on the flight mode, the flaps tilt from a vertical into a horizontal position. At take-off, all flaps are tilted vertical, so that the engines can lift the aircraft. Once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, leading the aircraft to accelerate. When they have reached complete horizontal position, all lift necessary to stay aloft is provided by the wings as on a conventional airplane.
Seeing the Lilium Jet take to the sky and performing sophisticated maneuvers with apparent ease is testament to the skill and perseverance of our amazing team. We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point. The successful test flight programme shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned. They can now turn our focus to designing a 5-seater production aircraft.
They are now developing a larger, 5-seater version of their Lilium Jet, designed for on-demand air taxi and ridesharing services. A typical journey with the Lilium Jet will be at least 5x faster than by car, with even greater efficiencies in busy cities. So a flight from Manhattan to New York’s JFK Airport will take around 5 minutes, compared to the 55 minutes it would take you by car.
Observation, highlights and context
* If successful this innovation would fulfill much of the vision of flying cars
* Critical aspects are VTOL (vertical take off and landing). VTOL means you can land on a small pad and not a large airport
* Electric engines are also important to ultimately reduce air pollution
* Ridesharing let a couple thousand vehicles to provide transportation services for up to a million people. They can make five round trips in the time it takes one taxi to go from Manhattan to JFK. The five seater will hold one driver and four passengers.
* Some have assumed that electric planes would not work or scale because of assumptions about the energy density of gasoline versus batteries. However, electric vehicles can save weight on other components especially by having many small engines. Advanced lithium batteries and other near term batteries would be able to create viable electric passenger jets. Batteries can also serve dual purpose by becoming some of the structural support.
* There are early niche markets for military purposes and emergency rescue. There are early adopters from the richest 0.1%
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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