Aircraft

Lilium electric jet: VTOL air travel for the masses?

Taking off and landing like a helicopter, the Lilium aircraft goes from VTOL to forward flight by swiveling its engines
Taking off and landing like a helicopter, the Lilium aircraft goes from VTOL to forward flight by swiveling its engines
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The Lilium Jet aims to be significantly quieter than other VTOL vehicles such as helicopters, thanks to its 320 kW (435 hp) rechargeable-battery-powered ducted fan engines.
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The Lilium Jet aims to be significantly quieter than other VTOL vehicles such as helicopters, thanks to its 320 kW (435 hp) rechargeable-battery-powered ducted fan engines.
The Lilium Jet, will have fly-by-wire joystick controls, retractable landing gear, gull-wing doors, and a claimed top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph)
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The Lilium Jet, will have fly-by-wire joystick controls, retractable landing gear, gull-wing doors, and a claimed top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph)
Taking off and landing like a helicopter, the Lilium aircraft goes from VTOL to forward flight by swiveling its engines
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Taking off and landing like a helicopter, the Lilium aircraft goes from VTOL to forward flight by swiveling its engines
The Lilium Jet has a claimed cruising distance of 500 km (300 miles) on a single charge
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The Lilium Jet has a claimed cruising distance of 500 km (300 miles) on a single charge
The Lilium Jet was born of a need to address the problems of space restrictions of normal passenger aircraft
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The Lilium Jet was born of a need to address the problems of space restrictions of normal passenger aircraft
The new aircraft could operate in small spaces in congested city areas
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The new aircraft could operate in small spaces in congested city areas
The Lilium Jet has fly-by-wire joystick controls, retractable landing gear, and gull-wing doors
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The Lilium Jet has fly-by-wire joystick controls, retractable landing gear, and gull-wing doors

Can't face the drive to the airport? Why not bypass the whole circus and jump in your two-seat, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) all-electric engine jet aircraft? That's the vision for the Lilium Jet, an aircraft currently being developed in Germany under the auspices of the European Space Agency's business incubation center that boasts fly-by-wire joystick controls, retractable landing gear, gull-wing doors, and a claimed top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph). The creators claim that this personal e-jet could be made available to the public as early as 2018.

Combining the vertical take-off capabilities of helicopters and the cruising abilities of fixed-wing aircraft, the Lilium Jet aims to be significantly quieter than other VTOL vehicles such as helicopters, thanks to its 320 kW (435 hp) rechargeable-battery-powered ducted fan engines (arranged in a not-too-dissimilar form to that adorning Darpa's X-plane prototype).

Designed for recreational flying use during daylight hours, the Lilium Jet should be classed as a Light Sport Aircraft in Europe, with a pilot's license requiring just a minimum of 20 hours training.

"Our goal is to develop an aircraft for use in everyday life," says Daniel Wiegand, CEO and one of the company's four founders. "We are going for a plane that can take off and land vertically and does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport."

Whilst flying an aircraft with so little training may seem fraught, with redundant systems for batteries, engines, and electronics (much like other proposed VTOL electric craft, such as the Joby S2), the new craft is designed to be a good deal safer than a helicopter, and with intelligent computer-control for automatic take-off and landing, any chance for pilot error should be significantly reduced.

The Lilium Jet was born of a need to address the problems of space restrictions of normal passenger aircraft
The Lilium Jet was born of a need to address the problems of space restrictions of normal passenger aircraft

Initially the Lilium would be only allowed to fly from designated airfields. However the ultimate goal is for it to be able take off vertically from just about any open flat space larger than just 15x15 m (49x49 ft), such as a large garden.

Once airborne the Lilium Jet will swivel its engines into a rear-facing position to propel it along like a fixed-wing aircraft to cruise at speeds of around 300 km/h (180 mph), and to travel up to a claimed distance of 500 km (300 miles) on a single charge. Top speed is aimed at around 400 km/h (250 mph), but this will have an effect on the maximum distance traveled.

The Lilium Jet has a claimed cruising distance of 500 km (300 miles) on a single charge
The Lilium Jet has a claimed cruising distance of 500 km (300 miles) on a single charge

The Lilium company was founded in 2015 by a group of engineers and doctoral students from the Technical University of Munich in Germany, and is developing the aircraft using the funds supplied by a venture capital investor. To date, the company says it has flown and proven the initial concept with a number of 25 kg (55 lb) scale prototypes.

Lilium has an ambitious game plan, with its first manned experimental flight of a full-sized prototype slated for 2017. After that, the company expects to launch a fully-airworthy for flight certification by 2018, in preparation for full-scale production. There's no exact detail on a projected price, but according to Lilium it should be "far less" than similar-sized aircraft and with typically lower running costs.

Sources: Lilium Aviation, ESA

35 comments
VincentWolf
The age of the Jetsons is upon us.
CAVUMark
Good luck.
Snafu
"The creators claim that this personal e-jet could be made available to the public as early as 2018." But it won't.
Lardo
Somebody's gonna get rich off this. Then run off to Rio with the loot.
CarolynR
Looks amazing and I would love to have one - but for the 'masses'? I think not. Just imagine the chaos if everyone had one...
Sheikh A'Leg
Brilliant. I've been banging on for years that the air is the future of personal transport and not land-locked vehicles. One day we'll all be driving in the 5th Element.....
HerbertShallcross
The concept seem to want to achieve several contradictory goals. It wants to achieve high speed, vertical take-off and landing and reasonable range, requirements that are at war with each other, and this while using a large number of small battery powered ducted fans. In general, more, smaller power plants are less efficient than fewer, larger ones, and an electric motor turning a conventional propellor is more efficient than a ducted fan. Man carrying battery powered aircraft exist, but all of them abandon at least one of this project's goals to get off the ground at all. There are conventional motor-gliders with limited speed and endurance that must operate from conventional runways using a single electric motor and a propellor. Quad-copter style man carrying aircraft have achieved vertical take-off and landing, but with extremely limited speed and endurance. There is a solar and battery powered aircraft gradually making it's way around the world, which has good range, but extremely low speed, and that needs to operate from jumbo jet runways in perfect conditions due to it's extreme frailty. Given how difficult achieving all three stated goals in a single aircraft simply by arranging existing technology in a slightly different way would be, I remain skeptical.
StephenBerson
Sounds great for rural areas but with so many people in the cities with irresponsible, preoccupied texting, drunk, stoned, unlawful, ignorant people there would be collisions causing problems on the ground. Nice concept though.
swaan
Loads of ducted fans, modular batteries, distributed control systems - looks impressively safe to me. Even with the Tesla Gigafactory the batteries for 300mi range is going to cost a fortune.
JamesMariani
As long as the masses have to spend 100's of thousands for it, congestion and air collisions should be minimal. I am also trying to imagine how poorly trained pilots will land it when the batteries run out while airborne.
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