The future of mobility may take the shape of this all-electric vertical take-off and landing jet
The best thing about this futuristic contraption is that it's not just an ambitious project on a piece of paper — it's real, and it has just completed its maiden test flight this month on an airfield near Munich.
Described by German startup Lilium as the "Aircraft for Everyone," it's the world's first all-electric vertical take-off and landing jet that can accommodate up to five passengers. Its German creators designed it as an air taxi that will travel five times faster than a car and will be available for rides Uber-style. The company's stated mission is "to make air taxis available to everyone and as affordable as riding a car."
The quiet electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) configuration allows the Lilium Jet to access city centers with no problems. The company says the aircraft will benefit from a vast network of small and inexpensive landing pads and central places in cities, allowing for quick pick-up and drop-off.
That sounds great, but how does it work? The Lilium Jet has a rigid, carbon fiber winged body with 12 flaps, each one carrying three electric jet engines (36 in total). Depending on the flight mode, the flaps tilt from a vertical into a horizontal position. For example, at take-off, all flaps are tilted vertically to allow the engines to lift the aircraft.
There are no details about the batteries, but the folks from Lilium claim their Jet can travel for up to 300 km (186 miles) on a single charge, despite a cruising speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). All that without any harmful emissions.
So when can we travel like Luc Besson envisioned in his sci-fi movie "The Fifth Element"? Well, the next step for the Lilium Jet is the first manned flight, scheduled for 2019 — yes, the first test flight was without passengers. If everything goes as planned, by 2025 we should be able to book a Lilium Jet using a mobile phone app.