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Lilium shows maiden flight of world’s first working prototype of an electric VTOL jet

Last year, we reported on Lilium Aviation when they secured a €10 million investment from Atomico, an important global venture capital firm based in London. The Germany-based startup founded in 2015 by four aerospace engineers and product designers is developing the Lilium Jet, an electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.

Today, Lilium announced that their full-scale prototype had its maiden flight and they released some impressive footage of the achievement.

The prototype is a two-seater and it managed to execute “a range of complex maneuvers, including its signature mid-air transition from hover mode to wing-borne forward flight.”

Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand said:

“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. We can now turn our focus to designing the five seater production aircraft.”

The images of the flight are quite impressive:

The company claims that the Lilium Jet can achieve a range of “more than 300 km (186 miles) with a maximum cruising speed of 300 km/h.(186 mph)”

With current air travel, a lot of time and energy are dedicated to getting passengers to the airport and to the aircraft gaining altitude and later descending. VTOL aircraft will allow passengers to save a significant amount of time in those parts of air travel, and electric propulsion has the potential to reduce fuel and maintenance costs and to open air transport to more people and more services.

Lilium says that once in flight, the efficiency of its prototype is comparable to an electric car.

Here are a few more pictures of the maiden flight:

Here’s the Lilium jet in bulletpoints:

  • The Lilium Jet is a lightweight aircraft powered by 36 electric jet engines mounted to its wings via 12 moveable flaps.
  • It is unique in combining the benefits of VTOL offered by helicopters and drones, with the speed and range of a jet aircraft.
  • At take-off, the Lilium Jet’s flaps are pointed downwards to provide vertical lift.
  • Once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, providing forward thrust.
  • When the wing flaps are horizontal, all of the lift required to keep the Lilium Jet in the air is provided by air passing over the wings – as with a conventional airplane.
  • Safety is of primary concern of Lilium, and the Jet is designed along the principle of Ultra Redundancy:
  • The aircraft’s engines are individually shielded, so the failure of a single unit cannot affect adjacent engines.
  • The Lilium Jet’s power cells are designed to continue delivering sufficient power for continued flight and a safe landing in the unlikely event that part of the battery configuration fails.
  • Lilium’s Flight Envelope Protection System prevents the pilot from performing maneuvers that would take the aircraft beyond safe flight parameters.

The company is also now revealing plans for a 5-seater version of the jet in order to create an on-demand air taxi service.

Due to the low-cost of operation, Lilium Jet actually plans to cover routes generally made by cars – but at least 5x faster. They give the example of a flight from Manhattan to New York’s JFK Airport in about 5 minutes, compared to 55 minutes by car.

There’s no word on when it would be available, but they now have a team of over 40 engineers working on bringing the aircraft to production.

The will have some competition. Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page launched two startups working on VTOL electric aircraft.

A prototype believed to be from one of his two startups, Zee.Aero, was spotted testing last year:zee-aero-vtol-aircraft

Kitty Hawk, the other startup backed by Google’s founder, is also moving forward with their VTOL aircraft project.

With Lilium’s latest accomplishment, the field is starting to get interesting.

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