Germany's Air Taxi Takes Flight

David Grossman
Photo credit: Lilium

From Popular Mechanics

  • The Lilium Jet has completed a successful unmanned test flight.
  • The small German company behind the jet hopes it will usher in the next great mode of transportation: urban flight.
  • The company hopes to accept passengers in some capacity by 2025, but it will have stiff competition.

Lilium, a Munich-based startup focused on electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) flight for public use, has released a new video that shows its jet completing what the company calls its "first phase of flight testing." At the video's end, the company says it's "coming" in 2025, although to what extent remains unclear.

The number of companies eagerly anticipating the rise of eVTOL flight has steadily grown over the decade. Sometimes referred to as "air taxis," they would offer limited number of passengers a short flight within or between urban areas. According to Lilium, its jet seats give people, can fly a little over 186 miles on a single charge, and can hit speeds a little faster than 62 miles per hour (mph).

It's that range of travel that Lilium hopes will make its eVTOLs stand out in an increasingly crowded field that includes California-based Uber, South Korea-based Hyundai, and another German company, Volocopter.

The prototype jet took flight this past May, with 36 all-electric jet engines propelling it through the skies. There was no pilot; instead, engineers remotely controlled the craft from the ground. Lilium says that thanks to the lift generated by its dual set of wings, the craft needs a mere 10 percent of its maximum 2000 horsepower during horizontal flight. The company did not offer specs on what the jet requires for vertical flight.

Away from the camera, the company has also begun a series of safety tests, including for engine failures, flap failures, and fuse blowouts on the ground and in the skies.

"The Lilium Jet continues to meet our expectations, delivering excellent in-flight performance and remarkably smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight," says Leandro Bigarella, Head of Flight Testing at Lilium, in a press statement. "That said, we take a relentless approach to improvement and, like any good testing program, we have had the chance to implement a number of refinements to the aircraft along the way."

The company also announced its first manufacturing plant, a 3,000 square meter space based at the company's headquarters, has been completed, and that it would begin breaking ground on a second, larger facility soon.

"It's been thrilling to watch the Lilium Jet progress so rapidly and to see our first flying taxi manufacturing facility. We are taking tangible and concrete steps towards making our vision of regional air mobility a reality and we're doing it on time," says Daniel Wiegand, cofounder and CEO in the press statement.

"We believe that regional air mobility has the potential to be a remarkable force for good in society and we can't wait for what comes next."

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