The idea of a flying car is, perhaps, the quintessence of the post-WWII ‘jet age’. Whether such a dream becomes a reality remains to be seen but a German company, Lilium Jet, is working on just such a reality.
A lot of prototypes have been showcased recently, and a lot of money is being directed at autonomous autos, drones, space travel and supersonic rail links.
Recently, Munich-based Lilium Aviation announced an important milestone: the first test flight of its all-electric, two-seater, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft prototype.
In a video provided by the Munich-based start-up, the aircraft can be seen taking off vertically like a helicopter, and then accelerating into forward flight.
The craft is powered by 36 separate jet engines mounted on its 10-meter long wings via 12 movable flaps. At take-off, the flaps are pointed downwards to provide vertical lift. And once airborne, the flaps gradually tilt into a horizontal position, providing forward thrust.
During the tests, the jet was piloted remotely, but its operators say their first manned flight will take place soon. Lilium claims that its electric battery “consumes around 90 percent less energy than drone-style aircraft,” enabling the aircraft to achieve a range of 300 km with a maximum cruising speed of 300 kph.
The key to this is the battery technology.
“It’s the same battery that you can find in any Tesla.”
says Patrick Nathen, co-founder of Lilium Jet and the start-up’s head of calculation and design.
“The concept is that we are lifting with our wings as soon as we progress into the air with velocity, which makes our aeroplane very efficient. Compared to other flights, we have extremely low power consumption.”
There are, however, many things that make flying cars impractical, unworkable, and even wrong-headed. The problem is that these aircraft don’t solve any problems for normal human beings, nor do they even gesture toward a meaningful impact in the distant future. But that hasn’t stopped many from trying.