Recently, we posted on a company which is attempting to make the classic idea of flying cars into a reality. The five-seater Lilium jet being developed by a Munich based start-up is a new kind of all-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle which, until recently, remained a science fiction dream.
See our previous post: Lilium: Now, there really could be flying cars.
“The founding mission of the company was to enable everyone to use this kind of transportation system in their everyday lives,”
says Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand.
“We want to be the leading company enabling every person to take a jet instead of using the car and be five times faster to their destination… There’s going to be an app and from day one you’ll be able to book this airplane as a service.”
Despite this bold vision, and having successfully undertaken a public test flight of a remotely operated version of the jet, the reality remains many years away. But this has not prevented the company from raising significant funding for development.
The company recently announcing it has closed $90 million in Series B funding, up from the $10 million Series A Lilium raised a year ago. Backing the round are Tencent; LGT, the international private banking and asset management group; Atomico, Lilium’s Series A backer founded by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström; and Obvious Ventures, the early-stage VC fund co-founded by Twitter’s Ev Williams.
“When we had the Series A investment, we had an idea and a smart founding team and a promise, basically. In April we delivered that: we have shown a full-scale air plane flying, even in transition from hover flight, so we could really demonstrate this is the best technology in that field and it works. That was probably the key difference.”
Neither a conventional air plane nor helicopter—but, to some extent, capable of doing the job of both—there are a number of other start-ups that are focused on the electric aircraft market, including Kitty Hawk and Zee.aero, both backed by Larry Page; and Vahana, backed by Airbus.
The Lilium jet’s main innovation is that multiple engine flaps tilt from a vertical into a horizontal position depending on the jet’s flight mode. During take-off, the flaps are tilted vertical to enable the engines to lift the aircraft, but, once airborne, the flaps transition slowly into a horizontal position to enable the aircraft to accelerate until enough lift is provided by the wings alone, just like a conventional air plane.
Lilium Aviation was founded in February 2015 by four aerospace engineers and product designers from the Technical University of Munich, and is now a thriving start-up. On the issue of being Munich-based, the company says the jet’s ‘Made in Germany’ engineering has been “a very good friend that is well-known,” not least in the eyes of investors. “People know that for hardware there is no better place to do it,” says the CEO, noting that Southern Germany is home to world-class and hugely successful engineering companies such as BMW, Siemens, Audi, and Porsche.