Lilium's all-electric VTOL taxi achieves forward flight for the first time

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

This time, Lilium's five-passenger, 36-jet electric prototype not only completed another vertical takeoff and landing but also transitioned to forward flight achieving an airspeed of 100 kilometers per hour. This run was the latest of over 100 tests Lilium has conducted so far.

The company posted a video of the craft taking off vertically, then transitioning to horizontal flight, and it looked pretty smooth. The company considers this a significant milestone, since going from a hover to forward flight is “one of aerospace’s greatest challenges.”

“The Lilium Jet continues to meet our expectations, delivering excellent in-flight performance and remarkably smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight,” said Head of Flight Testing Leandro Bigarella. “That said, we take a relentless approach to improvement and, like any good testing program, we have had the chance to implement a number of refinements to the aircraft along the way. We are now moving into a critical stage of testing as we prepare for high-speed operations and eventual certification by the relevant authorities.”

When it is ready for service, Lilium says that the eVTOL will have a range of up to 300km on a single charge and a top speed of 300kph. Its projected speed and range (if it can be achieved) will put it far ahead of Kitty Hawk’s Heaviside flying vehicle, which has a range of about 161km at a maximum flight speed of 120kph. The Heaviside is also only a single-seater.

Additionally, Lilium announced that it had finished building its first 3,000-square-meter manufacturing facility in Munich. A second, larger plant is currently under construction on the same grounds. The installations are slated to produce hundreds of eVTOLs per year when they begin operating in 2025.

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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Range and speed are much better but being only a single seater won't bode well with the flying public and the lack of a mention on the recharge time tells me this might not be a good commuter vehicle, especially if it's at or over 8 hours.
 

VitalyT

Russ-Puss
A plane, to fly up to 300km at 300km/h...

If it were 1940-s, and Howard Hughes was alive, he wouldn't have been impressed. Those numbers are pathetic for a plane today.

Today we have helicopters capable of flying for over 500km, and at over 400km/h. And they do not need a runway for landing or taking off. This "plane" cannot give a real competition even to helicopters, never-mind jet planes.

So what is it really good for?
 
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Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
A plane, to fly up to 300km at 300km/h...

If it were 1940-s, and Howard Hughes was alive, he wouldn't have been impressed. Those numbers are pathetic for a plane today.

Today we have helicopters capable of flying for over 500km, and at over 400km/h. And they do not need a runway for landing or taking off. This "plane" cannot give a real competition even to helicopters, never-mind jet planes.

So what is it really good for?
It's not a plane, in the traditional sense of the word (as you are looking at it). This is essentially another "flying car" type of automated on-demand taxi service. Similar to any of a half dozen other competing designs currently in development (from the likes of Uber, Volocopter, Airbus, etc.)
 

Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
Impressive, but still basically in almost full VTOL configuration for the entire flight, moving too slow for the wings to be anything but structural frames for the engines. It'll be interesting to see the performance when it is actually brought up to speed and the engine banks tuck in for more traditional forward flight, with the wings providing lift. Full transition to and from those flight modes is where things can go real bad, aerodynamically speaking.
 

p51d007

TS Evangelist
A plane, to fly up to 300km at 300km/h...

If it were 1940-s, and Howard Hughes was alive, he wouldn't have been impressed. Those numbers are pathetic for a plane today.

Today we have helicopters capable of flying for over 500km, and at over 400km/h. And they do not need a runway for landing or taking off. This "plane" cannot give a real competition even to helicopters, never-mind jet planes.

So what is it really good for?
It's for the "save the whales" hypocrite Hollyweird set to show off on.
 

GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
I really don't get this trend air space is a finite resource and most major cities are already pretty crowded adding in hundreds of these plus all those delivery drones everyone has been shouting about (granted I think those could be useful in certain ways) and your have next to no space once commercial air traffic is factored in (which is also growing). Not only is that crowded and noisy, but your having a lot of flying vehicles over densely populated areas, so max damage when they crash.
 

Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
I really don't get this trend air space is a finite resource and most major cities are already pretty crowded adding in hundreds of these plus all those delivery drones everyone has been shouting about (granted I think those could be useful in certain ways) and your have next to no space once commercial air traffic is factored in (which is also growing). Not only is that crowded and noisy, but your having a lot of flying vehicles over densely populated areas, so max damage when they crash.
It's a matter of scale. Ground space is a much more finite resource than air space, relatively speaking. And currently ground space (aka roads and highways) are saturated in most larger metropolitan areas. So, the idea is to take to the airways to bypass ground transportation congestion. That's a base reason for the trend, at least.

But you are right, there is a whole lot of issues to address to keep any increase in air traffic safe. Fully automated and connected systems that track all activity around them and prevent issues is probably the only real way to keep things from devolving into airborne anarchy - definitely not letting average Joe or Jane fly their own vehicles. There will always be extra variables too. I picture drones being the airborne equivalent of pedestrian traffic on the ground - random, inconsistent, often oblivious, and unpredictable. ;-)
 

RacerJT

TS Rookie
Range and speed are much better but being only a single seater won't bode well with the flying public and the lack of a mention on the recharge time tells me this might not be a good commuter vehicle, especially if it's at or over 8 hours.
Lilium's five-passenger
 
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HughJazz

TS Rookie
A plane, to fly up to 300km at 300km/h...

If it were 1940-s, and Howard Hughes was alive, he wouldn't have been impressed. Those numbers are pathetic for a plane today.

Today we have helicopters capable of flying for over 500km, and at over 400km/h. And they do not need a runway for landing or taking off. This "plane" cannot give a real competition even to helicopters, never-mind jet planes.

So what is it really good for?
Guilt, mostly. Heck in the 20s they wrapped some fabric around some tubes and said "Eff it, it's a plane." And they were doing over 200 mph with much farther range. This thing has a kajillion engineers working on it and barely just moved forward, and they consider it a milestone. Seems like the soft bigotry of low expectations. They've never carried a specific payload for a specific distance with a specific reserve energy remaining. Not exactly celebration worthy.
 

toooooot

TS Evangelist
I really don't get this trend air space is a finite resource and most major cities are already pretty crowded adding in hundreds of these plus all those delivery drones everyone has been shouting about (granted I think those could be useful in certain ways) and your have next to no space once commercial air traffic is factored in (which is also growing). Not only is that crowded and noisy, but your having a lot of flying vehicles over densely populated areas, so max damage when they crash.
Need flight corridors without people. Pretty much places without open spaces where flying vehicles can fly over. Which would make flying even more expensive in the cities.
Dead end idea...