Flying cars have always been the stuff of dreams, but those dreams are coming ever closer to reality with new technologies, improvements in battery technology and other initiatives by startup companies. A German company called Lilium Aviation, however, has achieved some remarkable numbers with its early remote-controlled flying car, the Eagle protoype, which uses the same battery that Tesla does in its electric cars.
Lilium Aviation’s flying car is an all-electric, two-seater flying car that uses vertical take off and landing technology (VTOL), but in a very unique way. The car has no less than 36 jet engines that are placed on movable flaps along the craft’s 10-meter long “wings”. By pointing all flaps down during take off, the engines are able to provide the vertical lift to get the vehicle off the ground.
Once in the air, the flaps start to tilt into a horizontal position, providing the forward thrust necessary to take the flying car forward. And can it move! The company says that the craft can achieve a top speed of 183 miles per hour and fly 183 miles on a single charge.
Of course, testing is unmanned at the moment, and Lilium is prioritizing passenger safety before it begins testing with human pilots/operators. The company also confirmed to The Verge that manned flight will happen very soon.
The goal for Lilium is to make a flying can that uses autonomous technology, but in the meantime it intends to use human pilots to control the craft. There are safety features in place, such as parachutes, but one of the key features is called the “Flight Envelope Protection System,” which prevents human controllers from exceeding certain preset flight parameters or doing acrobatic maneuvers while in the air.
The test model with the Tesla battery is a two-seater, but the company eventually wants to create a jet craft that can carry up to 5 passengers, presumably with a more powerful Tesla battery powering it. Lilium’s vision is to eventually be able to provide something similar to a car-hailing service via an app. The concept is very similar to Uber’s flying car project, which has NASA Langley Research Center veteran of 30 years, Mark Moore heading it. The car is called Uber Elevate, but Uber is more interested in spurring the development of flying cars rather than create its own.
But back to Lilium, they intend to make their own urban airborne transportation, which they want to primarily deploy in high-population areas like large cities. They’ve even gone so far as address the cost issue, saying this:
“A 55-minute taxi ride from Midtown Manhattan to JFK airport, with a fare of $55, becomes a breezy 5 minute flight in a Lilium jet, for as low as $6.”
Though the concept of flying cars zipping across our skies might have to remain in our visions for the next few years, there’s no denying that advancements in technology, manufacturing and an increasing pool of cash-rich investors like Google’s own Larry Page are slowly bringing this technology closer than ever to reality. And now that it’s possible with the same battery technology that Tesla uses, even mass production seems more practical.
Sources: The Verge, Bloomberg