DThe race for the air superiority of taxi taxis picks up speed. The Munich-based start-up Lilium has let its white whiz-starter with rotating wings fly for almost ten minutes at up to 100 kilometers per hour. Complex maneuvers were performed with the transition from vertical to horizontal flight, safety tests with failure of engines, flaps or fuses were simulated. The control was done without a pilot from the ground.
This was announced by the company founded in 2015 in Weßling near Munich on Tuesday. The new milestone is six months after the maiden flight in May, when the plane took off and landed vertically in 40 seconds. The change from take-off to forward flight is one of the biggest challenges in aviation and finally a characteristic maneuver for Lilium, said CEO and co-founder Daniel Wiegand of F.A.Z .. This was preceded by about 100 tests in the air and on the ground.
The start-up consciously refers to the object as a "Lilium Jet"; a fully electric powered, 1.5-ton five-seater with distinctive wings. With them he distinguishes himself from other, also in the development air taxi concepts. They are mostly similar to drones. All have in common that they are due to the electric drive much quieter and cheaper to operate than conventional helicopters.
Alternative to the ICE
"Lilium's longer travel distances target a different market than most of its competitors," Wiegand said. By air, any smaller city can be reached within a radius of up to 300 kilometers, which has no connection to the ICE; and at low cost and with a low infrastructure cost. "We can provide high-speed connectivity to thousands of communities." Other concepts are aimed at short-haul city routes, such as from the airport to the center.
It was not until mid-September that the start-up Volocopter from Bruchsal near Karlsruhe completed a four-minute test flight in front of an audience. The aircraft is more of an ultralight helicopter with 18 electric rotors. While Lilium is aiming for the commercial launch in 2025, Volocopter plans to put it into regular service in two to six years, if possible. Among other things, a cooperation with the largest German Frankfurt airport is planned. Still in its infancy is the "City Airbus" of the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The driver service Uber and Kitty Hawk of the Google founder Larry Page work also on low-emission and later autonomously flying air taxis. The American aircraft manufacturer Boeing pursues like Lilium a wing concept, now works with sports car manufacturer Porsche an electric whiz kid for use in cities.
The flying exercises of Lilium were done away from the public; the company has just posted videos about it. The two wing pairs make him look like an airplane. Their buoyancy increases the range considerably. The jet can fly more efficiently than a rotors powered by rotors, which is why a battery charge for a distance of up to 300 kilometers and allows quite different flight distances; and at much higher speeds.
Investor from China
In the now beginning second test phase over the next twelve months, it will go according to statements of the Lilium boss for cruising properties at high speeds. With the fast forward flight, another milestone would be reached. In time, the Lilium Jet is also once the planned maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour accomplish, making it the fastest all-electric, vertical take-off and landing aircraft in the world would be. When that should happen, Wiegand left open. Further testing includes manned flights. At the same time, the authorities are working on approvals and certifications, as well as establishing production.
The company has just completed its first plant at the Weßling headquarters near Oberpfaffenhofen Airport with 50 employees. The construction of a second production facility at the same location has begun. In both plants, the program includes batteries, carbon lightweight construction, electric drives and final assembly. The production is scheduled to begin with "hundreds of aircraft" annually in 2025, by which time the number of jobs at the two plants will be increased. Today, Lilium employs 350 people and 150 more job vacancies.
The milestone reached now is of great importance for the start-up, as it demonstrates the feasibility of the concept, which also plays a role for the financiers. So far, $ 100 million has been contributed by investors such as the Chinese Internet giant Tencent and the venture capitalists Atomico, LGT, Freigeist and Obvious Ventures. According to earlier data, another $ 100 million could be mobilized. "The start-up is well-funded for its current activities," said Wiegand. "Of course we'll need more investment in the future, that's a normal process." In the next round of financing, it's likely that new investors will be taken on board.
Although Wiegand does perceive the strong dynamic in this technology with felt hundreds of ideas, von Hype does not want to speak. "When we were founded, we still believed that we are and will be alone in the market at the beginning." It was pleasantly surprised that there are now many concepts and acceptance. "It will increase with further progress." In ten years, the wind could turn. "Once the air taxi market is established, the most appropriate concepts will prevail over consolidation." First, however, it would be important for air taxis to enter the market, create an ecosystem and lower prices.
. (tToTranslate) Daniel Wiegand (t) F.A.Z. (t) ICE (t) Flight altitude (t) Flight taxi (t) Flight taxi (t) Wessling