World’s first all-electric VTOL flying car completes test flight

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Munich-based Lilium Aviation has completed the first test flight of its all-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) personal jet that is claimed to have a range of 186 miles.

The prototype ‘flying car’ that was tested was a two-seater ‘Eagle’ craft, but Lilium’s plan is to scale up to five-seater versions designed for on-demand air taxi services. The vehicle is a lightweight aircraft powered by 36 quiet electric jet engines mounted onto its wings via 12 moveable flaps. Because of its fixed wing design however, it would not be able to be driven on the roads unlike other designs of flying cars.

On the other hand, Lilium also claims that its jet is the only electric aircraft capable of both VTOL and jet-powered flight, using its wings for lift, similar to a conventional airplane. This helps the craft consume around 90% less energy than drone-style aircraft, which is critical toward its range and speed abilities. In flight, the jet’s power consumption per km is said to be comparable to an electric car.

Lilium uses the principle of ‘ultra-redundancy’ to ensure safety. In case of an emergency, regardless of the failing component, the computer informs the pilot to land the plane. VTOL allows for vertical landing, hence even in a contingency, no complex decisions need to be made under time constraints in high pressure situations. Thanks to ultra-redundancy, even the failure of one engine does not compromise the safety of the plane or its passengers.

Lilium is working toward bringing the on-demand flying taxi ecosystem to life by 2025, with the first manned flight planned in 2019.