Imagine a world where there are no traffic jams, the air in the cities is as pure as it is in the countryside, where you don’t have to depend on fossil fuel for your daily transportation needs and you can commute from the downtown to the suburbs in a matter of minutes. Well, that world can soon be a reality if this little-known German aviation company ends up accomplishing the goals it has set for itself.
Lilium, an aviation startup founded by four engineers and doctoral students from the Technical University of Munich in Germany in February 2015, is developing the world’s first vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for personal use. The two-seater lightweight aircraft will run on electricity and will be able to recharge itself overnight by using an ordinary household power outlet.
“Our goal is to develop an aircraft for use in everyday life,” Daniel Wiegand, CEO and one of the Lilium’s four founders said in a statement released by the European Space Agency (ESA), which is hosting the company in its business incubator.
Removing the Hurdles In Air Transportation
While personal aviation has become more mainstream over the years, it is still something that barely a few on the planet can afford. According to the team at Lilium, the major problem with personal aviation – and air transportation in general – is that it requires airports, which are expensive to build and operate and are usually far away from city centers. According to Mr. Weigand, Lilium is trying to solve that problem by “going for a plane that can take off and land vertically and does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport.”
The aircraft being developed by the company will require a flat open area of only 225 square meters for vertical takeoff and landing, which is roughly the same size as that of a standard back garden in a suburban home. Though it is still in a prototype stage, the team at Lilium say that the plane would have a top speed of 400 kilometers per hour (248 mph), and would be able to cover a distance of 500 kilometers (310 miles) on a single charge.
Some of the problems that Lilium is trying to solve in personal aviation have already been solved by helicopters. However, the Lilium Jet promises some distinct advantages over them, the major one being safety. The batteries, engines, and controllers in a Lilium aircraft are designed for redundancy, hence, the chances of a disaster happening mid-flight will be low when compared to a helicopter, where the failure of its single engine or a malfunctioning rotor can cause it to crash immediately. Moreover, because it uses ducted fan engine, the Lilium Jet will also make significantly less noise than a helicopter during takeoff and landing.
According to the ESA, once released in 2018, the Lilium jet will retail for a much a lower cost than similar-sized aircraft of today and its operating cost would also be relatively much lower.
Although the Lilium Jet promises to revolutionize personal transportation, being in the prototype stage, it also has some limitations. The plane could only be flown in the daylight in uncongested airspace and that too in good weather conditions. The Lilium Team’s stated goal for the plane to take off vertically from ‘almost anywhere’, however, initially it will be allowed to do so only from airfields. Furthermore, not everyone who wishes to fly the plane will be allowed to do it. That’s because the Lilium Jet has been classed as a Light Sport Aircraft, which requires the person flying the aircraft to sport a pilot’s license with at least 20 hours of training.