World’s first electric flying taxi jet takes to the skies

A German company has brought personal urban aviation a step closer after it successfully completed maiden flights of its flying electric-powered jet taxi.

The Lilium Jet has successfully completed its maiden test flight series in the skies above Bavaria. Courtesy Lilium
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A company based in Munich, Germany, has successfully completed test flights of the world’s first electric flying taxi jet.

Lilium’s vehicle successfully completed its maiden test flight series in the skies above Bavaria. The two-seater Eagle prototype executed a range of complex manoeuvres, including mid-air transition from hover mode to wing-borne forward flight.

“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 a five-seater production aircraft,” the company said of the test flights last week.

The five-seater will be designed “for on-demand air taxi and ridesharing services”, added the firm, which is backed by investors who include the Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom. “A typical journey with the Lilium Jet will be at least time faster than by car, with even greater efficiencies in busy cities. So a flight from Manhattan to New York’s JFK Airport will take around 5 minutes, compared to the 55 minutes it would take you by car,” Lilium said.

Potential rivals in the personal urban aerial vehicle market include the crowd-funded eVolo, a firm based near Mannheim in Germany that has said it expects to receive special regulatory approval for its two-seat “multicopter” with 18 rotors, that can also take to the water, to be used as flying taxis in pilot projects by 2018. Judging by its promotional video, its vehicle may appeal more to those of a daring disposition, however.

While the Lilium and eVolo taxis are flight-only vehicles, other companies are racing to get true flying cars – those that also operate on the road – to market.

And for luxury car lovers, there is a supercar version. The Slovakian firm AeroMobil said at the supercar show Top Marques Monaco last week it was taking pre-orders for its hybrid flying car that can drive on roads. The vehicle is a bit more old-school, being a car with wings that needs a runway to become airborne. Still, AeroMobil said it planned production from 2020 – although as with any supercar it will only be within reach of those with deep pockets, coming in with a price tag of about US$1.3 million.

The flying car has a range of 700km and an airborne top speed of 750kph, according to the company. “Flying transportation will soon be a reality,” Juraj Vaculik, the co-founder and chief executive of AeroMobil, said at the show. “From today we are ready to take the first pre-orders.”

The company’s first edition will be limited to 500 units.

AeroMobil does plan more affordable versions, though. “To significantly reduce the cost of flying cars in the long-term, we are bringing an automotive high-volume approach to a traditionally conservative low-volume aerospace industry, significantly cutting components costs via smart design, novel materials and production automation,” Mr Vaculik said.

Also eyeing the flying car market are bigger players such as Airbus. During the 87th Geneva International Motor Show last month, Italdesign and Airbus world-premiered Pop.Up, the first modular, fully electric, zero emission concept vehicle system – flying car in layman’s terms – designed to relieve traffic congestion in crowded megacities. Pop.Up envisages a modular system for multi-modal transportation that makes full use of both ground and airspace.

Meanwhile, Terrafugia, based outside the US city of Boston and founded a decade ago by MIT graduates, aims to build a mass-market flying car. It hopes to have its TF-X feature on the roads and in the skies as soon as possible.​

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