Aircraft

Lilium claims eVTOL landmark by transitioning main wing mid-flight

Lilium claims eVTOL landmark b...
Rendering of the Lilium VTOL taxi in flight
Rendering of the Lilium VTOL taxi in flight
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German startup Lilium has claimed a milestone in achieving what's known as main wing transition
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German startup Lilium has claimed a milestone in achieving what's known as main wing transition
Rendering of the Lilium VTOL taxi in flight
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Rendering of the Lilium VTOL taxi in flight

The prospect of a widespread flying taxi service like that imagined by Lilium hinges on the ability of these aircraft to seamlessly transition from vertical to horizontal flight, and the aviation startup has just demonstrated a key element of this functionality. The company has altered the main wing of its all-electric aircraft in the air to this effect, achieving what it says is a first for the industry.

In order to lift off and land vertically, and travel efficiently across significant distances in between, eVTOLs like Lilium's need to generate lift in different ways. While in vertical lift and hover configuration, the company's aircraft uses small ducted fans to gain or maintain altitude. Ideally, when in forward flight mode, it would function like a conventional aircraft, saving power and relying on its carefully engineered wings to generate lift instead.

Lilium says that while its unique small fan design uses up lots of power during lift-off and hover, it offers performance benefits in forward flight by minimizing drag (more on that here). In any case, transitioning between these flight modes is a key function of the overall operation, and the company has now demonstrated a key part of this this capability using its Phoenix 2 demonstrator aircraft.

German startup Lilium has claimed a milestone in achieving what's known as main wing transition
German startup Lilium has claimed a milestone in achieving what's known as main wing transition

This transition was completed across its entire main wing, with the aircraft reportedly remaining stable throughout the test. Doing so makes the aircraft the first ever full-sized electric jet to transition from hover to wing-borne flight, according to Lilium, which will work towards transitioning the forward canards as it continues its test program in the coming summer months.

“Main wing transition is a huge step forward on our path to launch and it validates our Flight Dynamics Model," said Lilium Co-Founder Matthias Meiner. "Full credit goes to the outstanding Lilium team who worked so hard to get us here, and who remain laser-focused on the rest of the Flight Test Campaign.”

Here's an explanation of transition from Phoenix Chief engineer Matthais Meiner:

What is transition?

Source: Lilium

9 comments
9 comments
jerryd
This is going no where literally it can't take off with enough battery, payload to go any distance, maybe not even take off with payload. Nor is it the only one as most are fighting basic physics, aerodynamics of rotors. To be efficient you need to move a lot of air slowly without the friction of moving much less air faster.
Towerman
Its the first time ever i would somewhat agree with jerry, the world must be freezing up ??? wasn't lilium plagued with stagnation woes just a while back... The Problem is the power source.

Focus on THIS before further trying to refine on the lilium electric turbine concept.

As to the rest of jerry's comments... all other conventional evtols is doing fine.

Though its time to make that battery/supercap/fuel cell/ or what ever solidstate power source a REALITY.

So many flying machines..
YET so little power source focussed development !!!!!!
Aermaco
The development of electric power sources that can effectively carry the future eVTOL traffic will follow from hydrogen fuel cell progress improving power to weight ratios.. The resulting economic efficency will drive its evolution into ubiquity,,, when it is developed.
Towerman
I agree Aermaco BUT world powers need to stand in UNISON to make this happen sooner. This is the current hold up !
Aermaco
Towerman, your metaphorical call-sign has elevated central visibility on the airfield of tech evolution. ;-)
The solution to your on-point note might be a Consortium of all transport companies that would be using H2FCs where they would build on the shared evolving tech with strong licensing motivation to accelerate inventive progress.
anthony88
Lucky the Wright Brothers never had to wait for certification testing before getting approval to fly or they'd still be out at Kitty Hawk tinkering in a shed.
PrometheusGoneWild.com
I like the concept but I think they should be talking about their transitioning technology and redundancy.
Only one of the flaps needs to get stuck or malfunction and this is a lawn dart….
While I like the concept, I think this entire nascent industry has missed the mark.
Companies like UPS really want something that can transport priority cargo from facility to facility without needing a full airport.
And none of these are hybrid. So they don’t have the range to really get the military excited.
Of course once the systems are proven, changing the body to add a turbine or a range extending fuel cell would not be insurmountable.
Towerman
@Aermaco
Now this is the kind of thinking i want in my meetings. Lets go show the regulators the potential of this technology. Or start our Own regulatoray authority. Someone needs to make it happen !
Towerman
@prometheus

Your argument holds 50 % merit.

For instance.
The osprey is certified and mechanically much more prone to disaster than the lilium yet is certified.

Having said that the lilium's transisioning system Must be failsafe, that i agree with and it Must be demonstrated.

a Helicopter which IS certified, there is no redundency, you only get one shot at autorotation there is no leeway or chances for second attempts. And sure enough 1000s of botched autorotations have occured in decades of flying.

I still believe in lilium, the e-turbines have a lot of potential just because of the simple fact that one: they do produce a lot of power given the size of each e-turbine which in turn is lowering drag on the wing surface where they are mounted.

Two: they are easy to work on and easy to replace.

Three: no heavy maintenence, it will most of the time either need a bearing replacement or esc repair/ replacement, 5 minute jobs.

Going turbine is going backwards no we simply need better fuel cells or a different power source altogether.