Inspire

Electric jet makes first successful test flight

The world’s first electric jet, which takes off and lands vertically, successfully completed test flights in Germany last week.

Start-up Lilium’s  two-seater prototype, billed the Eagle, carried out complex maneuvers, including its unique mid-air transition from hover mode to wing-borne forward flight. “We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point,” Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand said.

The aircraft design comprises an array of rotating electric fans, which point downwards for take-offs and landings and rotate to the horizontal for forward motion. The jet consumes around 90 per cent less energy than other drone-style aircraft, comparable to an electric car, enabling it to achieve a range of more than 300 km and a maximum speed of 300 km/h.

How does it work?

The lightweight jet is powered by 36 electric jet engines mounted to its wings via 12 movable flaps. At take-off, the jet’s flaps point downwards to provide vertical lift. Once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, providing forward thrust. When horizontal, all of the lift required to keep the Lilium Jet in the air is provided by air passing over the wings like a conventional airplane.

When can I ride in one?

Now that the first flight tests have been successfully completed, the Lilium team is now developing a larger, five-seater version of the Jet, designed for on-demand air taxi and ride- sharing services. The first manned flight is expected in 2019.

Wiegand, who was part of the Climate-KIC Accelerator in Munich in 2014, first came up with the idea for Lilium in 2013. Lilium was established in 2015, after flying the first half-scale prototype. If the company’s mission goes to plan, by 2025, these air taxis will be widely available and as affordable as cars.

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