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Lilium's electric jet taxi completes its first flight

By mongeese · 18 replies
May 18, 2019
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  1. Lilium’s a young Munich-based startup that’s funded by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, Tencent, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, and a couple of venture funds. They see themselves as a Tesla meets Uber meets Boeing, as the pioneers of short-range versatile aircraft. Their plan is to release a fleet of Lilium Jets as a taxi-like service in 2025 completing short flights like New York to Boston in about an hour. Allegedly, prices will even be “competitive with today’s travel options.”

    The plan requires the Lilium Jet to be maneuverable, affordable and scalable. Meeting those criteria requires a new type of aircraft that is smaller and more environmentally friendly than existing options. Unlike many other startup vehicles with outlandish designs, the Lilium Jet’s is rooted in logic: dual wings to provide stability during vertical flight, electric engines because they can reach max thrust in less than a second, engines on adjustable panels to smoothly transition to horizontal flight, fixed wing design for efficiency…

    The result of all that careful thought is a vehicle almost like a speeder from Star Wars. A quick launch and fast journey are made possible with a 300 km/h (186 mph) max speed and enough battery for an hour’s flight, Lilium claims. While cruising it’s as efficient as modern-day electric cars, using just 10% of its 2000 hp to maintain speed. The wingspan is 11 m, and it can hold four passengers and a pilot.

    The maiden flight for the Lilium Jet was completed on May 4th (a nod, perhaps, to its sci-fi nature), where it, well, went up a few meters then came back down. While that’s unexciting, Lilium promises that the Jet is already capable of complex flight patterns, and considering they demonstrated some cool maneuvers with a two-seater prototype two years ago, there’s no doubt we’ll see the Jet back in action soon. Hopefully, we’ll be given some proof of Lilium’s astonishing claims.

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,397   +2,934

    I've seen probably 10 projects like this over the years, they all end up showing just lifting off the ground, and then we never hear from them again.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  3. Jasra

    Jasra TS Rookie

    Yup, we already have air taxis, they are called helicopters.
     
    psycros, JaredTheDragon and p51d007 like this.
  4. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,925   +1,194

    LOL "first flight". Yeah, hovering a few feet off the ground isn't a "flight".
    Another project that will suck up a lot of money, and go nowhere.
     
  5. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,140   +833

    #1 Anything even remotely like this that gets built will be under the exact same FAA already governing airplanes and helicopters which means you absolutely will not have the freedom of flight you'd think you'd have seeing these projects in the design phase.

    I went to Nassau Flyers for a private pilots license. It takes almost 12 hours of ground school (around $500) and then many hours in the air ($110 an hour) to become proficient enough to fly one of these while obeying FAA regs and learning communication with the ground and airspace.

    #2 When the battery dies: so do you.

    Every one of these should have a parachute similar to Cirrus aircraft.
     
    Reehahs and CloudCatcher like this.
  6. GrievingGod

    GrievingGod TS Rookie

    Yeahhh, going to have to agree with you there. Battery technology is no where near ready to risk putting this thing in the air. Aside from the fact that they tend to explode randomly, they are also quite sensitive to cold temperatures, which can cause wild swings in the available energy on tap.

    Short a new breakthrough in battery technology - which we've been waiting for for many years by now and are still coming up empty - this thing is a death machine to the pilots, passengers, and anyone unlucky enough to be in the flight path of its crashing hull, as far as I can tell.
     
  7. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,140   +833


    And unlike a helicopter, you can’t auto-rotate it to the ground.

    Solution: Cirrus parachute
     
    psycros likes this.
  8. netman

    netman TS Addict Posts: 280   +87

    It does look flimsy with the large wings vibrating in the air cantilevering the weight of props' motors even a few meters above the ground!

    I would not fly in this taxi!
     
  9. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,661   +2,414

    Build a big quadcopter/hexcopter so that it has a detachable capsule in its midsection that lowers down via cable. Capsule could even have computer-controlled articulated vanes on it to help stabilize it within the downwash. This copter could then hover over urban areas and reel out that capsule for people to climb into then pull them up into the body of the airframe and fly away. Would be really good for rescue jobs as well. Alternately, more skyscrapers could put helipads on their roofs..they have lots of them in Sao Paulo.
     
  10. GregonMaui

    GregonMaui TS Booster Posts: 115   +36

    #2 When the battery dies: so do you.

    So much worse than a jet fuel engine, when you run out of fuel you die!

    Why do so many of us always assume that everyone else is so stupid? Or are we just stating the obvious to make a claim to the title of Captain Obvious?

    Obviously (get it, see what I did here?) , there would be enough built-in redundancies to to keep the battery levels sufficient for the task. Like you shouldn't fly a jet without adequate fuel, you probably have the same warnings for battery level, as well as emergency battery level, like emergency fuel reserve.

    They will either get it figured out, or use up all their VC funding trying to
     
  11. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,140   +833


    I love it when people who know nothing about something comment like they understand everything.

    #1 I am a pilot. I even have videos I've made flying on my Youtube (so right then and there, I refuse to take telling from anyone other than a pilot).

    #2 This machine does not create lift beyond its engines.

    NO you do not die when a jet plane runs out of fuel. You still have the ability to glide to safety. This machine doesn't have a wingspan or control surfaces capable of doing that.

    A jet, similar to a car, can create its own electricity with its generators so long as it has chemical energy (fuel) to convert to electrical energy.

    Even a helicopter can auto-rotate.

    #3 I'll reaffirm my original statement: when the battery dies - so do you.

    This machine needs a Cirrus parachute.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
  12. GregonMaui

    GregonMaui TS Booster Posts: 115   +36

    "I love it when people who know nothing about something comment like they understand everything." True you know nothing about me, so you don't get to comment like you know everything about me. Really, is that not obvious?

    #1 I am a pilot. I even have videos I've made flying on my Youtube (so right then and there, I refuse to take telling from anyone other than a pilot)[/I. Too bad, you know its engineers that design planes, right?

    #2 This machine does not create lift beyond its engines. You do not know that, you aren't on the team designing it, you just saw a picture that probably isn't even the prototype of the project. Aerodynamics are not effected by power source, electric, jet fuel, or rubber bands. If the plane has adequate wings for the payload, fuel does not matter, just the thrust.

    NO you do not die when a jet plane runs out of fuel. You still have the ability to glide to safety. This machine doesn't have a wingspan or control surfaces capable of doing that. You do not know that, you are operating on a false assumption. Obviously, Captain, the engineers (not Youtube video makers and pilots) would have to design safety into the package to get approved. don't mistake a picture in an article for a working model.


    #3 I'll reaffirm my original statement: when the battery dies - so do you. "I love it when people who know nothing about something comment like they understand everything."

    This machine needs a Cirrus parachute.[/QUOTE]. And for a moment, you might actually think that the designers can not figure this out? They probably have a litany of design choices.

    The only thing in life that we can control is our attitude, and how we treat others. Thank-you and good night!
     
    Uncle Al likes this.
  13. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,246   +3,661

    Electric jets might seem impossible but remember there are several makers out there that are creating electric aircraft (small scale at this time). I have no doubt in the coming decades they will be more and more popular. My only regret was I was born 50 years too early so I won't be around to see it's inevitability acceptance as are electric cars.
    Those that dispute change are simply ignorant of history. The electric light, automobiles, micro-computers were all stated to be just the latest passing fad, yet we could not survive without them in so many things. Alternate fuel vehicles have been around for a very long time. Acceptance is only a matter of politics and timing .......
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
  14. cuerdc

    cuerdc TS Booster Posts: 177   +41

    Great things already out there, but will never be affordable or legal as goverments do not want people flying around thats why is a taxi model or automated.
     
  15. hrowder

    hrowder TS Enthusiast Posts: 63   +11

    I dunno… I have been seeing things about graphine battery development that makes me think that light weight, powerful, and non-temperature sensitive batteries are not only possible, but not that far off in the future. It's about time!
     
  16. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,140   +833


    Power failure is not unheard of in aviation. Even the A380-800 had problems with Lithium battery failures and battery fires. Thing is, airplanes have deployable generator fans to produce electricity using windspeed if all else fails.

    This project has none of that.

    No control surfaces.

    No flaps.

    No rudder.

    No ailerons

    It depends 100% on electricity flowing to those motors. That makes it quite inefficient - and dangerous without an independent parachute.
     
  17. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,140   +833


    FAA don't play that.

    It would be nice to have your very own rechargeable quadcopter the size of a Model 3 Tesla - capable of carrying 4 people.

    But unless you live in the middle of nowhere and your airspace isn't under FAA control, these projects will continue to be one offs that only see flight time within university gymnasiums.
     
  18. ThomasTECH

    ThomasTECH TS Rookie

    Honestly, It only takes facing the truth to excel in this field. Changing power to electric is neat, but the design concept is tried and failed quite a bit now. The perfect air taxi will likely use a mashup of power and much more advanced motion tech. Electricity is not very good for motion tech, it is good for data tech.
     
  19. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,449   +454

    Hate to break it to you, but that describes almost every small air transport concept I've seen for any of these "air taxi" or personal flight products. In fact, most of those rely solely on lifting fans (quadcopter style) for every bit of lift - if you watch the actual videos on the Lillium website, they reference the fact that when the fans are in horizontal position the wings are providing the lift, not the fan motors. So, in this instance, you are getting actual airfoil lift if you have forward velocity. And, it's a canard design, so stalling is much more difficult (but not impossible) to experience. You would at least have a semi-controlled glide in theory, if you weren't in VTOL mode when the power kicked out.
    Wouldn't that have every one of the limitations that you just held against the Lillium design? Except slightly worse, if the lift characteristics of the wings are true from the other videos on Lillium's website...
     

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