A startup company known as Lilium Aviation is in the process of developing the world’s first vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, making it a major game changer for private jet flying.
The aircraft, known as the Lilium jet, combines the vertical take-off capabilities of a helicopter with the flying capabilities of a fixed-wing aircraft. The intent of the Lilium jet is to provide a quieter, safer and faster VTOL aircraft.
The European Space Agency has praised the Lilium jet for not needing to land at an airport and being environmentally friendly. Developed in Germany, the aircraft can reach speeds of 250 mph and travel a distance of 300 miles on a single charge. Flying at top speeds effects how far the plane can travel, however.
“Our goal is to develop an aircraft for use in everyday life,” Daniel Wiegand, CEO and one of the company’s four founders, said in a release sent out from the ESA. “We are going for a plane that can take off and land vertically and does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport. To reduce noise and pollution, we are using electric engines so it can also be used close to urban areas.”
The company was founded in February 2015 by four engineers and doctoral students from the Technical University of Munich in Germany. The organization has demonstrated the concept through several 25 kg prototypes and is currently building its first ultralight vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, according to ESA.
Because of its small size, Lilium cannot be incorporated into the take off and landing schedule of airports. Nevertheless, the ESA states, “the goal is for it to take off vertically from almost anywhere – even from back gardens.”
The plane is entirely electric and has ducted fan engines, making it significantly quieter in comparison to helicopters. In addition, since the plane’s engines and controllers are redundant, the design is much safer than helicopters. Furthermore, Lilium has intelligent computer-control for automatic take-off and landing, significantly minimizing the risk of pilot error.
The plane is classed as a Light Sport Aircraft for two people. The pilot’s license requires a mere 20 hours of training, which is almost the equivalent of a driver’s license.
The company plans to have the first full-size prototype ready by 2017. Although a price tag attached to the Lilium jet has yet to be announced, the company states the plane ought to be significantly cheaper than an aircraft of a comparable size.