Lilium: An Eelectric-Powered Plane

The aim is to build an aircraft that not only the super-rich can afford; but one that can make private air transportation possible for a much wider section of the society

Issue: 3 / 2016Photo(s): By Anoop Kamath

Lilium aircraft, being deveLoped by a design team of a German start-up company, is the world’s first vertical take-off and landing, two-seater electric airplane for private use. Called Lilium Jet, this is a two-seater aircraft that is equipped with 320 kW rechargeable battery-powered ducted fan engines, retractable landing gear, fly-by-wire controls and an interactive touch screen.

This batteries of the aircraft can be powered from a domestic supply power point and can take-off from the garden in the backyard. The noise level of its electric engines is very low thus being of no nuisance value to those in the neighbourhood. That is the vision behind Lilium, an ultralight electric plane concept that its German design team hope to have on sale by 2018. The egg-shaped two-seater aircraft would take-off and land vertically, like a helicopter and hence it can operate comfortably from normal helipads. It requires only an open and flat area of 15 metres by 15 metres for it to operate. Although currently under design, the aircraft is expected to reach a maximum speed of 400 kmph and will have a range of 500 km.

Lilium Aviation company was founded by four engineers and doctoral students from the Technical University of Munich. These are Daniel Wiegand, Patrick Nathen, Sebastian Born and Matthias Meiner. The company is part of the European Space Agency (ESA) business incubator looking to create a new class of planes that are environmentally friendly, less noisy and easier to fly than helicopters.

“Our goal is to develop an aircraft for use in everyday life. We are going for a plane that does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport. To reduce noise and pollution, we are using electric engines so it can also be used close to urban areas.” The aircraft uses ducted fan engines which the team says make it a lot quieter than helicopters or traditional private jets. Its compact size means it would not have to fit into airport scheduling to land and take-off.

The plane which is presently in the design stage, is not without its downsides. It is designed to only be flown in good weather conditions in uncongested airspace and only by day. In fact, the aircraft will primarily be using airfields for landing and taking off although as per the ESA, the goal is for it to take off vertically from almost anywhere, even from a private garden behind the bungalow. As the two-seater machine fits into the Light Sports Aircraft category, what is needed to fly it is a pilot’s licence with at least 20 hours of training.

The price has not yet been made public, but ESA says it will be cheaper to buy and operate than similar sized aircraft currently available. So far it says it is proved the concept with 25 kilogram scaled-down prototypes. A full-size unmanned prototype is planned for later in 2016. “In the longer term, our target is to build an aircraft that not only the super-rich can afford but one that can make private air transportation possible for a much wider section of the society,” says Daniel Weigand.