First electric, zero emission air taxis moved a step closer, as Lilium Aviation revealed that its aircraft has successfully carried out a series of rigorous flight tests over the skies of southern Germany. The egg-shaped pod may be used as a flying taxi by 2025.
While flying taxis seem all the rage since the Chinese all-electric Ehang 184, the Lilium Jet is set to be the first to take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane. ‘We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point,’ said Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand. ‘The successful test flight programme shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned,’ he commented after first unmanned tests over Munich on April 20th. Further tests with a pilot are scheduled for 2019.
The jet uses 24 small engines in its wings and 12 more mounted at the front of the aircraft on either side of the cockpit. Its 36 jet engines then tilt on moveable flaps from vertical to horizontal to provide forward thrust, with wings providing lift as in a normal airplane.
While the prototype, reminiscent of the Xplorair aircraft, is a two-seater, Lilium Aviation plans to extend this to a 5-seater by 2025. With a wingspan of 33 ft (10m), it will be capable of flying nearly 200 miles (300km) at a max cruising speed of over 180 miles per hour (300km/h).
German start-up Lilium Aviation predicts that its jet will be used for lift-sharing, as customers book a ride via an Uber-style smartphone app, delivering them to their destination five times faster than a car, at a fraction of the cost. It claims that the jet’s 100% electric design, fed by lithium-ion batteries, means it is far more efficient than typical aircraft, with emissions similar to an electric car. Its VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capacities also mean that it will only require a small parking space in a crowded street, on top of a city building - or even, why not, in your back garden.