Urban air mobility or in layman’s term, air taxis is the next frontier being targetted to reduce commute time in increasingly congested cities. Several companies are developing products to offer such services including automobile majors like Porsche and Volocopter.
Another German company developing an air taxi is Munich based Lilium. Lilium has taken a different and unique approach to urban air mobility by shunning the rotary wing aircraft. They have invented a unique and green vehicle which is an all electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) fixed wing aircraft. The aircraft is powered by 36, yes 36 jet engines. The engines are basically electrically driven air jets, akin to the water jets found in some of the high speed boats arranged across the fixed wings. The jets can be rotated to make them forward facing or upward facing. When facing upwards, the jets help the aircraft takeoff and land vertically, while in level flight the jets are facing front.
The Lilium Jet has a maximum speed of 300 km/h in level flight and it can retain a charge in batteries which is sufficient for a 300 km range. Though this range is sufficient for intra-city air taxi commute, it can easily be used for regional transport beyond the city also. This Lilium Jet can seat five people and is operated from ground. Lilium has been testing the aircraft for the last six months for its structural integrity as well as its flying characteristics. It has completed several complex maneouvres including the complex changeover from vertical to level flight. This changeover is one of the most complex processes in aviation. The two sets of wings on the Lilium Jet offer much higher level of efficiency. These two sets of wings are responsible for the high range of the Lilium Jet. Also, because of its level flight capability, the Lilium Jet needs only 10% of the total 2000 HP it can generate.
Lilium has been testing this aircraft at a field near Munich and have completed more than 100 different tests since its maiden flight on 04 May 2019. The Lilium Jet recently breached the 100 km/h speed limit. In parallel to testing the Lilium Jet, the company is nearing completion of its first 3,000 square meter factory at Munich. They are also commencing construction of a second facility to allow manufacture of a few hundred aircraft per annum by the time commercial services commence in 2025.