Aircraft

Lilium plans five-seater air taxi after successful unmanned flight

Lilium's two-seater Eagle prototype lifts off for the first time
Lilium's two-seater Eagle prototype lifts off for the first time
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An early unmanned prototype being tested
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An early unmanned prototype being tested
The Eagle under development
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The Eagle under development
Closeup of the nacelles
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Closeup of the nacelles
Cutaway view of a nacelle motor
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Cutaway view of a nacelle motor
Rendering of the VTOL taxi in flight
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Rendering of the VTOL taxi in flight
The new air taxi will seat five
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The new air taxi will seat five
The new air taxi can fly from JFK to Manhattan in five minutes
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The new air taxi can fly from JFK to Manhattan in five minutes
The new air taxi requires a small footprint to operate
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The new air taxi requires a small footprint to operate
Lilium sees the new air taxi as useful for on-demand and ride-sharing services
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Lilium sees the new air taxi as useful for on-demand and ride-sharing services
Working on the prototype's wing
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Working on the prototype's wing
Top view of the projected air taxi
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Top view of the projected air taxi
Lilium's two-seater Eagle prototype lifts off for the first time
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Lilium's two-seater Eagle prototype lifts off for the first time
For its maiden flight, the unmanned two-seater was controlled from the ground and subjected to a series of tests
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For its maiden flight, the unmanned two-seater was controlled from the ground and subjected to a series of tests
The test flight included a mid-air transition from hovering to horizontal flight
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The test flight included a mid-air transition from hovering to horizontal flight
The maiden flight took place at an airfield outside Munich, Germany
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The maiden flight took place at an airfield outside Munich, Germany

We're still waiting for flying cars, but maybe flying taxis will arrive first. Lifting off from an airfield in Germany, Lilium Aviation's Jet Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), zero-emission, electric Eagle prototype has completed its maiden flight. Being controlled from the ground, the unmanned two-seater was subjected to a series of tests, including a mid-air transition from hovering to horizontal flight. The company is aiming for a manned flight in 2019 and is setting its sights on a five-seater for on-demand air taxi and ridesharing services.

According to Lilium, its air taxi will be "jet-powered," though this means it uses 36 ducted fans run by electric motors rather than using gas turbines. The motors are set on the wings and canards with 12 movable flaps that direct the airflow downwards for taking off and landing, then directing it aft over the wings to provide lift and forward flight.

The new five-seater is claimed to use only 10 percent of the energy of a quadcopter-style aircraft and has a range of over 300 km (186 mi) at a speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), allowing it to travel from JFK Airport to Manhattan in five minutes instead of the 55 minutes by road – all with zero local emissions. It's also anticipated to cost the same as a regular taxi because its small takeoff and landing footprint means less and cheaper infrastructure.

The new air taxi can fly from JFK to Manhattan in five minutes
The new air taxi can fly from JFK to Manhattan in five minutes

In addition, Lilium says that the motor nacelles are individually shielded to prevent one failure affecting the others, that the power cells are designed to allow for continued flight and a safe landing if the battery conks out, and the company's Flight Envelope Protection System is designed to reject a pilot's commands if they would pose a safety risk.

"The successful test flight program shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned," says Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand. "We can now turn our focus to designing the five-seater production aircraft."

The video below shows the Eagle taking to the air for the first time.

Source: Lilium

21 comments
CAVUMark
I have a dream.... to gain the knowledge and skills to pilot my own single place aircraft and go wherever I want to go with no one knowing where I am and what I'm thinking.
JonasBlomberg
Lilium should consider hydrogen and fuel cell instead of batteries. It has a superior gravimetric energy density.
watersworm
Waow... But how do they manage batteries plus 5 seater plus 300km/h plus 300 km range ? Should have I missed something in batteries technology ?
JulianPotgieter
now you just have to lose the wings then you have something :)
Tommo
5 seater with huge batteries? How does the power to weight ratio on this stack up?
swaan
@JonasBlomberg the energy density might be better but not the power density. And remember fuel cell vehicles are battery electric with a fuel cell stack range extender basically. There are also problems with atmospheric pressure and temperatures with fuel cell stacks in aircraft.
windykites
Absolutely amazing! Was the machine loaded with passenger weight in the video? It is hard to believe that electric fans can be so powerful. Would it save weight if some of the fans were shaft driven, rather than each having a motor? Julian suggested ditching the wings, but these are essential for forward flight, and also hold the lift fans.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Is it just me, or did that video contain mostly CG visualizations of the craft in action? Floating serenely over a beautiful landscape, but without a single soul around. Suspect. (Also, no direct indication of the scale of the model they flew while they were out testing it - still photo only...) Fake? My other question: can this craft glide when power is lost with all those engines along the lift surfaces, and no vertical stabilizers?
LarryWolf
As I have said again and again repeatedly--the age of the Jetsons is almost here. A new epoch--the 'Electrocopene' has begun.
Jimjam
I doubt this uses batteries, probably uses a JP8 running generator to create the electricity for the electric fans.
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