While many companies around the world promise to come up with speedy, efficient and Eco-friendly means of transport, Munich-based startup Lilium Aviation announced an important milestone: the first test flight of its all-electric, two-seater, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) prototype. The Lilium jet was piloted remotely, but the company say the vehicle’s first manned flight will happen soon.
The two-seater prototype which runs on nothing but electricity can ascend and descend like a helicopter and accelerate into forward flight using wing-borne lift. The craft is powered by 36 separate jet engines mounted on its 10-meter long wings via 12 movable flaps. At take-off, the flaps are pointed downwards to provide vertical lift. Once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, providing forward thrust.
Lilium claims that its electric battery “consumes around 90 percent less energy than drone-style aircraft,” enabling the aircraft to achieve a top speed of 300 km/h and a range of 300 kilometers per charge. The high-tech batteries ensure that the jet is more powerful and efficient at high speeds, as well as being quieter and emission-free.
Safety is a major emphasis at Lilium, with each of the engines being shielded individually, so failure in one can’t affect the others. There will be parachutes on board, and something called the “Flight Envelope Protection System” that prevent the pilot from performing maneuvers or flying the aircraft beyond safe flight parameters.
The company plans to build a 5-seater version of the jet eventually, which can be used in urban environments. Its mission is to “liberate towns and cities from today’s congestion and pollution, with people able to come and go freely, vastly expanding the radius of their everyday lives”.
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