Hang on everyone, your favourite science fiction fantasy is about to come true. How often have we fantasised about escaping the tiresome traffic jams of city roads and rising majestically into the air in a flying car, to arrive at our destination in style…..
Well, hold your breaths; that fantasy has been turned to reality by Lilium Inc., a Munich based aeronautical engineering company, dedicated to revolutionizing the way we travel. The start-up has created the only electrically powered jet featuring ‘vertical take-off and landing’ (VTOL). The jet successfully completed its first test flight in German skies, in April this year.
The technology used in the building of the jet displays all the attributes essential to making it a successful consumer product- simplicity of design, low operating cost, viability, emission-free air travel, low noise, high speed and high efficiency.
As described on the official website of the company, the Lilium Jet consists of a rigid winged body with 12 flaps. Each one carries three electric jet engines, thus totalling 36 electric engines. The flaps are built such that they can tilt from a vertical into a horizontal position, depending on the flight mode. At take-off, all flaps are tilted vertical, so that the engines can lift the aircraft. Once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, leading the aircraft to accelerate. When they have reached complete horizontal position, all lift necessary to stay aloft is provided by the wings as on a conventional airplane.
The creators have placed high value on safety too. In case of an emergency, regardless of the failing component, the computer informs the pilot to land the jet. Since the jet lands vertically, no complex decisions need to be made under time pressure regarding a suitable place to land, as in conventional planes.
Another important safety feature is the concept of redundancy. The Lilium Jet is equipped with small independent components, so that, for example, a single engine failure does not have consequences for the aircraft’s safety or stability. The system can still do a vertical landing with a loss of multiple engines.
With VTOL, Lilium’s jet dispenses with the need for a runway or air-strip for take-off, thus making it suitable for use in crowded urban areas. According to the company, all that is needed is a large network of small and inexpensive landing pads that will allow one to quickly enter an aircraft anytime and fly anywhere you want.
The company has envisioned it as the aerial version of on-demand, app-based ride-hailing services such as Uber. Anyone can hail a Lilium Air-taxi on an app, by the push of a single button.
The Lilium Jet is environment-friendly- it is 100% emission free, almost noiseless- it makes less noise than a motor bike, is fast- at 300 km/h, it can cut a 55 minute car ride to just about 5 minutes, and when launched for the public, will be priced at a very affordable price point- a 19 km ride at just 6$.
At face value, it seems too good to be true- a personalized, clean and affordable air travel option that can be safely used by the general public. Now, let’s see how true it can stay to its promise.