A new "flying taxi" was unveiled by the German start-up Lilium, which claims that the vertical take-off boat could form the basis for an air service on demand within six years.
The five-seat electric jet propulsion aircraft is designed to travel up to 300 km, a journey that would take an hour at maximum speed.
While a smaller version of his airplane novel was flying in 2017, Lilium said that the first flight of a large-scale prototype at the beginning of this month – a short remotely controlled flight in Monaco – was a "huge step".
The company, which has invested over 100 million euros (87 million pounds) of investments since its foundation in 2015, has set the goal of offering Uber-style and app-based air taxis in multiple cities within 2025.
The latest version, with space for one pilot and four passengers, will be the model for Lilium's mass production model. With a sufficient economy of scale, Lilium believes that the rates would be around $ 70 (£ 55) each for a jump from one city to another, for example from JFK airport to Manhattan.
Daniel Wiegand, co-founder and managing director, said: "We are taking another huge step towards achieving urban air mobility. Lilium Jet itself is beautiful and we were happy to see it taken for the first time."
According to Lilium, the relatively simple design, beyond the 36 electric jet engines needed for take-off and vertical landing, makes it safer and more convenient than other aircraft. Once in the air, the power needed on the cruise is little more than that of an electric car, says Lilium. The fixed-wing design offers a longer range than competitors with drone-based aircraft, which consume much more energy while maintaining the air.
Lilium will now seek certification for its new aircraft through rigorous flight tests, the next point of reference is to move the jet seamlessly from vertical to horizontal flight.
Although many people may have reservations about Lilium's declared ambition – "a world where anyone can fly where they want, when they want" – Wiegand said the company was trying to meet the company's demands for a trip quiet and green urban plane.
Remo Geber, chief commercial officer, said the jet produced less than 2% of helicopter noise: "You could use it in cities where people live, it's totally electric … This is very different."
He said the ambition for a demand-based app-based service would not mean "landing in every garden … You should work with regulation all over the world, integrating with the public transport systems where they have them. We are coming to a respectful way of thinking about how people live, how to create corridors and not just fill the skies with these things ".
For example, according to Geber, for people in rural areas of Britain, any interruption would compare favorably with the construction of HS2: "You don't have to cut their lovely countryside. You need a small pad for take-off and you're connected to the # 39 "whole country. Compare it to build roads or build railway lines, it's a fraction of the cost."
The flying taxi market could be worth $ 1.5t in 2040, according to a Morgan Stanley analysis, and a number of other eVTOLS – or vertical take-off and landing vehicles – are under development all over the world. Uber himself has unveiled a concept model from the very different aspect at the beginning of this year, while Airbus is developing its own Vahana autonomous vehicle. Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang was safe enough to carry VIPs on a helicopter-shaped eVTOL in 2018.
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