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Lilium Aviation's EV VTOL Aircraft Completes Series of Flight Tests

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【Summary】Called Lilium Jet, the two-seater unit is capable of taking off like a helicopter and performing complex, aerial maneuvers. Powering the aircraft are 36 robust jet engines with 12 directional flaps for stability and guidance.

Michael Cheng    Apr 26, 2017 7:00 AM PT
Lilium Aviation's EV VTOL Aircraft Completes Series of Flight Tests

From Airbus to Uber, Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) technology is the latest emerging fixation to capture the attention of tech giants worldwide. Last year, Uber published a white paper that documented its interest in the futuristic mode of transportation, along with technical and legislative requirements needed for the technology to reach full maturity.  

Most businesses developing VTOL aircrafts and networks admitted that flying cars are far from being introduced to commercial markets. However, earlier this year, Airbus announced it would be testing prototypes by 2018. That timeline, which already seemed impossible at the time, is being challenged by Lilium Aviation, a Germany-based startup that was founded in 2015.

Read on to find out how the company, backed by venture capital firm Atomico, is leading the proliferation of electric VTOL aircrafts.

Full-scale Prototype

Lilium is one of the few companies in the nascent sector to complete a full-scale prototype of an all-electric VTOL vessel. Called Lilium Jet, the two-seater unit is capable of taking off like a helicopter and performing complex, aerial maneuvers. The business released footage of its milestone to prove that it has what it takes to compete with large, well-funded establishments. Analysts speculate that this is why the group made such a big deal about its test flight. In order to secure more funding to continue its ambitious project, Lilium needs financial backing. Its competitors, which are mostly aviation companies with deep pockets that have been around for decades, are hiding their developments to deter copycats.

"One of the advantages of the Lilium Jet is that it can take off vertically and still handle like a plane in the air," explained Blair Marnell from Nerdist.

The four aerospace engineers who are building the VTOL aircraft claim that the vessel has a range of roughly 186 miles, with cruising speeds of 186 mph. These performance metrics are suitable for commercial transportation around congested cities. Impressively, the jet, at this stage, is already as efficient as an electric car in flight mode. Powering the aircraft are 36 robust jet engines with 12 directional flaps for stability and guidance.

Addressing Safety Issues

The overall goal of Lilium is to make daily transportation more efficient by bringing aerial travel to the masses. However, to win over commuters, the group must reassure people that its VTOL vessels are safe. To overcome this challenge, the business has designed its units using the Ultra Redundancy Principle. In a nutshell, this practice involves reducing the number of critical failure points by layering its safety features. For example, should one of its engines malfunction or fail prematurely, the aircraft would still be able to fly, or at the very least, land safely.

Moreover, its battery comes with extra reserves, should power run out during flight. To prevent accidents stemming from human error, engineers created the Flight Envelope Protection System, which prevents pilots from performing risky aerial maneuvers.

"We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point," Lilium Co-founder and Chief Executive Daniel Wiegand said in a statement.

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