Lilium’s Flying Car Completes its First Test Flight
Tune into any sci-fi movie from the last 20 years and the generic image of our future has one consistent: flying cars. Somewhat a cliché of what the future will look like, the idea of a flying car is one that has long been explored in theory. In practice, very few have made any real inroads, with only a handful of viable attempts from the likes of AeroMobil. Today, “disruptive aviation start-up” Lilium have thrown their hat in the ring with a flying car which they believe will revolutionize the way we travel.
Founded in 2015
Lilium was created in 2015 by co-founders Daniel Wiegand, Sebastian Born, Patrick Nathen and Matthias Meiner with one purpose in mind – to build the first-ever fully electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet. Given the infancy of the company, you’d be excused for assuming they were still making their first steps, but surprisingly this is not the case. Lilium has not only garnered positive press for its developments but has already successfully completed its first test flight.
In a remarkably short space of time the talented team at Lilium has already got their prototype up and running, and it’s an impressive specimen indeed. The two-seater vehicle boasts a range of 300km along with a 300km/h max cruising speed, something which is achieved through the use of 36 engines. With a wingspan of just 10 meters, the vehicle is tidy in appearance, but all of that pales into insignificance when considering the vehicle’s true potential.
As a fully electric vehicle, Lilium’s flying care has zero emissions. As eco-friendly as imaginable, the lightweight jet’s energy use is super optimized, weighing in at around 90% less than your average drone.
“It’s the same battery that you can find in any Tesla,” said co-founder Nathen. “The concept is that we are lifting with our wings as soon as we progress into the air with velocity, which makes our airplane very efficient. Compared to other flights, we have extremely low power consumption.”
Accessible to all
But that is just the beginning. Plans are already in place to up the capacity of the vehicle from two people to five, and if Lilium’s predictions are to be believed this could mean a difference in our daily lives on a fundamental level. Instead of battling rush hour traffic to make in on time to the airport, people could be able to fly from Manhattan to JFK Airport for less than the price of lunch – and in roughly 10% of the time.
This is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of Lilium’s design when it comes to market potential. The company has not set out to design an exclusive model for the elite minority but instead has created a vehicle which can be rolled out to improve the lives of everybody walking the streets with a bit of change in their pockets. People will be able to travel faster, cheaper, and smarter.
Will I need a pilot’s license?
As things stand, users of Lilium’s ultra-modern flying car will be required to fly them themselves, but this won’t always be the case. As the technology is still being developed, necessity dictates that users will at first have to operate the vehicles themselves, but the long-term goal is to have autonomous vehicles. This means that customers will be able to punch in a few details to the app or website and have their private flying car arrive much like an Uber. Although contemporary, this is not unheard of; Uber themselves have experimented with autonomous vehicles and the same technology has been incorporated in Amazon’s drones and even for takeaway outlets. Lilium is simply taking this tech to the skies. Nathen certainly agrees that the time is right, with Lilium proving to be born in a fortunate age:
“We are right now at the magical point. We have without a doubt started at the perfect time… This is why you can see a lot of different projects from all over the world.”
The futuristic image of a flying car is complete when witnessing how the vehicle moves. The Lilium Jet uses vertical movement for both take-off and landing before wing power takes the reins to propel the vehicle forward. This design makes it incredibly practical for congested areas, with no need for a runway thanks to the take-off which is more akin to a helicopter than a traditional airplane. Indeed, this appeared to be at the forefront of Lilium’s thoughts, as their official website itself states:
“Lilium aims at liberating towns and cities from today’s congestion and pollution, with people able to come and go freely, vastly expanding the radius of their everyday lives.”
The use of the word “liberating” is particularly interesting. It cements the idea that the co-founders don’t just see this as the flexing of modern technology’s bicep, but a genuine movement towards a more progressive economy.
Of course, this throws up some entirely new issues. If, as the team at Lilium envision, the part-car part-jet really does take off in a major way and is accepted as the new go-to mode of transport, how exactly would this be integrated into our existing transport systems? Brand new certification and legislation would need to be put in place to monitor the electric aircraft, and although the model is capable of landing without a runway there would need to be plenty of landing pads placed around major cities to accommodate the vehicles with the level of convenience and accessibility proposed.
Lilium’s Mission Statement reads: “Our mission is to enable the world where everybody can fly anywhere, anytime.” It might not happen overnight but, based on what we’ve seen so far, Lilium won’t stop until they get there.