Electric VTOL Jet Designed for Air Taxi Takes Flight

Will the Lilium jet become the Uber of the skies?

Lilium Eagle
With a goal of pioneering air taxi travel, the Lilium Eagle prototype had a successful first flight.Lilium

A very different aircraft design powered by multiple electrically powered jets took off for the first time last week. The Lilium Jet has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and this first flight was unmanned. However, the company's vision is to use it as an air taxi platform. The proof-of-concept, named Eagle, has two seats. In its final form, the Lilium jet will be designed for five people.

As with the Airbus e-Fan and V-22 Orprey Tiltrotor, the motors of the Lilium jet can rotate to vector the thrust for vertical flight or horizontal flight. The transition to forward flight was demonstrated during the first flight. Multiple electrical motors are mounted in rows on the trailing edges of the wings and also on the forward wings. The VTOL’s targeted top speed is 160 knots with a range of about 160 nm, allowing for quick hops. With a greater range, the Lilium Jet could be well suited for air taxi services, though a solution would have to be in place to recharge or quickly replace the batteries.

Lilium Eagle landing
With a greater range, in addition to its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, the Lilium Eagle could eventually be well-suited for air taxi services.Lilium

“It’s our mission to make air taxis available to everyone and as affordable as riding a car,” Lilium said. In Uber-like fashion, the concept is for passengers to book the Lilium Jet on demand through a smartphone. The company expects to fly from Manhattan to JFK, a trip that takes about an hour by car, in 5 minutes at a targeted cost of $36 initially. That is a bold mission with many obstacles in the way, including certification of the airplane, and the availability of pilots, recharging stations, and airports, though, in the case of the Lilium, no runway would be required.