Electric vehicles are all of the rage right now, and that situation will not change anytime soon. Significant advancements have been made in this industry over the past few years. Late last week, the world’s first electric jet plane took off and landed vertically without any issues. Moreover, the machine completed several brief test flights in the process. A very intriguing development, to say the least.
Electric Jets Can Indeed Fly
It is always a bit worrisome when engineers will test a new concept that has never succeeded before. In the case of the electric jet plane, there are a lot of things that could go wrong. It turns out a lot of these concerns were unfounded, though, as the plane successfully took off and landed vertically after completing several test flights. A major breakthrough in the world of electric vehicles, that much is certain.
Essentially, the Lilium jet is a two-seater hybrid aircraft which utilizes the mechanisms of both a conventional airplane and a helicopter but has an exterior structure of a jet. The Lilium jet takes off vertically and in mid-air, it accelerates into forward flight and flies with wing-borne lift. In air, the jet can maneuver comfortably at high speeds, offering high levels of stability and control.
Daniel Wiegand, the co-founder and CEO of Lilium, stated:
“Seeing the Lilium Jet take to the sky and performing sophisticated maneuvers with apparent ease is testament to the skill and perseverance of our amazing team. We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point. The successful test flight programme shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned. We can now turn our focus to designing the five seater production aircraft.”
In December of 2016, Weigand and the germany-based company Lilium secured a $11 million funding round to finance a team of more than 40 international engineers and designers and the manufacturing process of the first full-scale prototype of the Lilium jet.
After securing a multi-million dollar investment from global venture capital firm Atomico, Weigand announced:
“We will see businesses spring up around the Lilium Jet, offering air taxi services and other new models of transportation. Lilium passengers of tomorrow are the people using ride-hailing and car sharing apps today, not private jets.”
Weigand and his team are developing a business model which significantly differentiates Lilium from other companies in the competitive scene of VTOL jet manufacturing. The company aims to provide an infrastructure like Uber for private jet users. Upon the completion of necessary testing and passing of regulatory hurdles, the company will develop a platform wherein clients can share private jets with ease, at lower costs.
“It is an exciting vision of the way our world could be. We hope that when everyone sees the amazing progress we are making on the Lilium Jet, they’ll understand that we’re already well on our way,” Weigand added.
Larry Page, the CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of internet giant Google, also funded two VTOL aircraft manufacturers in the past. One of Page’s companies introduced the testing of its prototype this week, close to the testing period of Lilium. However, the reaction from the community was divided. The community expressed their overwhelming optimism over Lilium jet due to its practicality and efficiency but criticized the Kitty Hawk Flyer, for various security and economic reasons.
Before the company can even think of going mainstream, they need to ensure the electric jet is feasible. During their test flights, everything seemed to click, resulting in a positive experience. Unlike regular planes, however, this particular jet takes off vertically, just like a helicopter. Once it successfully reaches an altitude, the jet will fly horizontally, as one would expect. For now, these tests were done with unmanned jets, but Lilium will aim to put at least one person in the cockpit in the near future.
Under the hood, this electric jet packs quite a bit of power, due to its 36 engines in total. All of these electric jet engines are mounted in different rows, which are located on the front and rear wings. By tilting the wings, the craft is capable of switching between horizontal and vertical flight. Quite an impressive feat, as it creates an entirely new airborne experience.
While the current iteration of the electric jet has room for two passengers, the company is looking toward the future already. The next version of this craft will be a five-seat aircraft. As such, it will require more engines than the current model, although it should be able to retain both horizontal and vertical functionalities without much of an issue. Additionally, the machine will maintain its quiet and emission-free nature moving forward.
Despite these breakthroughs, it remains to be seen if there is a consumer demand for ride-sharing electric jets. Lilium should be commended for thinking along these lines, as vehicles like these may end up resolving some of the traffic congestion found in most cities around the world. Then again, one needs ample landing space to put the craft down, despite this vertical capability. A minimal ground infrastructure requirement certainly is a step in the right direction, though. Flying electric vehicles are an emerging trend, that much is certain.
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