Flying cars might just take the cake as the most overused symbol of an idealized future — one that always seems vague and far off. Well, flying cars might have just come one step closer to becoming reality.
Today, Germany’s Lilium Aviation announced the maiden voyage of its very own all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The Munich-based company released a video of its VTOL aircraft, dubbed the Lilium Jet, taking its very first test flight. The flight lasted but a few minutes, and was unmanned and piloted from the ground, but it’s still an important milestone for Lilium Aviation: it proved that their aircraft can fly.
See the Lilium Jet in Action Below
The Lilium Jet is, ironically, not actually a jet. It’s powered by 36 electric engines and maneuvers through the air using 12 flaps on its wings. Currently, the jet has a range of about 183 miles on a single charge, and can reach maximum cruising speeds around 183 miles per hour, the company said. The VTOL aspect of the aircraft allows it to take off and land anywhere — negating the need for a landing strip, and making it ideal for use in congested urban areas. The prototype seen in the video is a two-seater, but Lilium Aviation also has plans for a 5-passenger model.
While the Jet’s first flight was operated remotely, the company said that a manned test flight is close-at-hand. And while it may seem like such an aircraft could carry a high price tag, Lilium Aviation’s Patrick Nathen said the ultimate goal is to keep the cost low enough for widespread use. The aforementioned five-seater version could be used for a flying ride-share service (which echoes Uber’s similar plans) — as an example, an hour-long, $55 taxi ride could become a 5-minute, $6 flight in a Lilium Jet, Nathen told The Verge.
“The basic challenges are solved,” Lilium CEO Daniel Wiegand told Wired Magazine. The company can now focus on thoroughly testing the aircraft before moving into serial production. But while the test flight was an important first step, the company still has a long way to go before the Lilium Jet helps us achieve our dream of flying over traffic.