Lilium plans five-seater air taxi after successful unmanned flight
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.
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.