A futuristic flying taxi with the potential to revolutionize where we choose to live could be airborne in little more than five years it’s been claimed. Munich-based start-up Lilium has just successfully completed the first stage of flight testing for its all-electric prototype.
The startup has completed its first phase of testing, with its five-seater 36-rotor electric prototype hitting speeds of 100 km/h (62 mph). The company has also completed its first manufacturing facility and has brought on a veteran aerospace executive to oversee its flight program. Lilium says it remains “on track” to launch passenger operations in several locations around the world by 2025.
Back in May, when Lilium first unveiled the aircraft taking off vertically, hovering for a short while and landing again, the team behind it was “in tears,” Chief Commercial Officer Remo Gerber told CNBC.
“There have been hundreds of tests already that have happened” since then, Gerber said in an interview. “It already started becoming a bit like normality to see it fly, but we’re super excited to show that to the world.”
Lilium’s jet certainly stands out among the current crop of “flying car” startups: it has an egg-shaped cabin perched on landing gear with a pair of parallel tilt-rotor wings. The wings are fitted with a total of 36 electric jet engines that tilt up for vertical takeoff and then shift forward for horizontal flight. There is no tail, rudder, propellers, or gearbox. The cabin can seat five passengers.
When it’s complete, the Lilium Jet will have a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) and a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), the company says. Lilium says this puts it ahead of its competitors and allows it to fly between regions rather than just short hops within cities.
Describing this type of transition as one of “aerospace’s greatest challenges,” Lilium claims it gives the Lilium Jet a range advantage over some other competitors, with its two sets of wings contributing to much higher levels of efficiency than in aircraft lifted solely by rotors.
Various companies have been showing off new air taxi concepts, with Uber, Boeing, Airbus, German start-up Volocopter and Chinese firm Ehang all vying to launch passenger drones. Volocopter on Monday showed off an air taxi terminal in Singapore which is built with London-based Skyports.
Meanwhile, the company is actively raising cash, with TechCrunch recently reporting the startup was looking to pull in $400-500 million. It’s a staggering amount for an urban air mobility company like Lilium, and would far exceed the $55 million raised by fellow German air taxi startup Volocopter.