The sci-fi dream of climbing into a flying pod and commuting high above the gridlock has moved a step closer following the successful test flight of what could be the vehicle of the future. The prototype two-seater Lilium Jet, a compact and lightweight electric plane capable of vertical take off and landing, completed an unmanned test.
The basic concept of a VTOL is that it has the benefits of a helicopter in terms of taking off without requiring a huge runway, but once airborne, it can still achieve the higher top speeds of a fixed wing aircraft like a jet.
Potential competitors to Lilium Jet include much bigger players such as Airbus, the maker of commercial airliners and helicopters that aims to test a prototype self-piloted, single-seat "flying car" later in 2017.Lilium’s electric VTOL jet.
Slovakian firm AeroMobil said at a car show in Monaco on Thursday it would start taking pre-orders for a hybrid flying car that can drive on roads. It said it planned production from 2020. But makers of "flying cars" still face hurdles, including convincing regulators and the public that their products can be used safely. Governments are still grappling with regulations for drones and driverless cars.
Using jet-powered flight once the craft is airborne also has big benefits in terms of energy economy once you’re cruising through the air. Lilium says that it can get a range of around 186 miles from its battery and a top speed of about 186 mph, too. It is much more than what you’d get out of a large rotor-only vehicle with similar battery capacity.Lilium’s electric VTOL jet.
“Seeing the Lilium Jet take to the sky and performing sophisticated maneuvers with apparent ease is testament to the skill and perseverance of our amazing team,” says Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand. “We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point. The successful test flight program shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned. We can now turn our focus to designing the five seater production aircraft.”