Lilium, the German aviation firm developing an audacious electrical VTOL jet, has edged closer to its goal courtesy of US$90 million in new funding. Following successful test flights earlier in the year, the company says the cash will be key in making its vision of a five-seater aircraft that will take travelers from Manhattan to JFK Airport in five minutes a reality.
We first caught wind of the Lilium Jet back in 2016. The company sprung out of a business incubator at the European Space Agency (ESA), and with engineers and doctoral students from the Technical University of Munich at the helm, it was established to change urban travel with a quiet, all-electric flying taxi that can be summoned with a push of a smartphone button.
In its early stages, the Lilium Jet was designed to carry two passengers at speeds of up to 400 km/h (250 mph), using retractable landing gear and fly-by-wire controls to take off and land in rather confined spaces of larger than 15 x 15 m (49 x 49 ft), like gardens, for example.
The team flew its two-seater prototype earlier this year, successfully testing some of its maneuverability, including its ability to transition from hovering to horizontal flight. Following those tests, the team turned its attention to a larger five-seater production version, which will have a range of over 300 km (186 mi) and a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). It claims that because of the jet's efficiency, flights will cost less than the same journey by road taxi, while traveling five times faster than a car.
And investors seem to be liking what they are seeing from Lilium. Among those to throw cash its way are Chinese holding company and internet giant Tencent, and investment firms Atomico and Obvious Ventures. Along with further developing the aircraft, the money will also be used to expand the team behind it as it targets 2019 for its first manned flights.
"We are continuing to recruit the very brightest and best global talent in aeronautical engineering, physics, electric propulsion and computer science to join us on this extraordinary aviation journey where the only limits are the laws of physics," says Daniel Wiegand, Lilium co-founder and CEO.