Initially I thought it was using those spinning-cylinder wings to produce the VTOL behavior! Decent approach, though.
No sound. I'd like to hear how noisy it is: the wind alone will be pretty loud, even if the electric motors are silent. And again, there's nobody in that: with a passenger it's going to work maybe three times as hard, depending on how light and dronelike it is empty. They might have next to no batteries in there, it behaves like it's quite staggeringly light.
Clever to use dronelike autostabilization to avoid having much in the way of control surfaces. This vehicle absolutely depends on having those fans working, and probably couldn't glide to a landing of any sort.
I'm sure the Jetsons-hype guys will continue making the direct play for venture capital money. Let 'em.
How much do you think it masses empty? 30kg? The Gossamer Albatross was 32kg!
It's got to be at least 100kg empty.
However, to speculate for a moment. If it is possible to create a vehicle such as this, then this is what I would love to see as the real direction of all those self-driving car companies (Google,Lyft,Apple,Uber,etc).
I trust humans in land-craft far more than I trust humans in aircraft, and I might even consider the problems to solve by AI in shuttling humans from point A to point B through the air might actually easier than those you have to solve navigating the roads and ground-based hazards... way less human-driven vehicles and dumb animals (including humans) up in the air and a lot more ways to maneuver and avoid them.
I think a much better future is the one where our tech companies use their AI to control these air taxis and have them pickup and dropoff between tons of mini-airstrips (including the tops of apt buildings?) and we get a new ubiquitous form of fast public transportation which takes the load off of the rest of the transportation infrastructure without creating a weird human/AI dynamic on the roads.
But, as has been said... probably too good to be true for right now.
300km cruise speed with 300km range = 1 hour endurance. General flight planning guidelines call for at least 45 minutes of reserve fuel in case of things like weather or landing holds.
So really the useful range is more like 50km.
Also, if they could magically double it, would it then be useful for a high-end taxi service?
Don't get me wrong, even with a working prototype, I see this moving really slowly unless the company is commanded by an exceedingly talented team that understands how to influence governments to update policies.
Yup. High winds in an area would make it unsafe to land anywhere in that area. Ditto for low cloud cover (need a minimum of 1000') or low visibility (need more than 2 miles).
From an overview of the differences in regulations that cover Helicopters (which are likely more maneuverable at low speeds than this aircraft):
>>> Helicopters must complete the flight to the first airport of intended landing, then fly from that airport to the alternate airport; and then fly after that for 30 minutes at normal cruising speed. Normally, other aircraft are required to have 45 minutes. <<<
Long story short, batteries are heavy, heavy beasts. Generally available electric vehicles have trouble going much over 300 miles on a single charge; aircraft are going to have even more problems.
If the batteries can't be easily swapped out, then there's quite a bit of downtime in charging as well.
Isn't that what Uber's talent really was? Getting policy challenged and the hundreds of local and state lobbying efforts?
In which case the whole design will need to sit on a shelf for 5 to 10 years until some radical change in Wh stored per kilogram of battery comes along. The density of 92 octane petrol, aviation fuel or diesel fuel in terms of kilojoules (or watt hours) per kilogram is still ridiculously higher than the best batteries.
fixed wing required reserve is 30min, rotorcrafts 20min depends how this vehicle is classified, nevertheless current total airtime is less than reserva.
Level flight you're probably right (assuming it is even capable of the transition and level flight, I'm not convinced of that, those forward pods add a lot of drag), depending on how much energy you'd lose just from the take-off, landing and the transition. This will give range anxiety a whole new (third) dimension.
The video looks like a Kickstarter promotion. Too many neckbeards, not enough video of product working. A few minutes of uninterrupted flight video would be more impressive. They don't show the transition from vertical to horizontal flight, either.
There have been several battery-powered human carrying aircraft. Most are scaled-up quadcopters. Here are five of them. All have flown and none are shipping.
Umm.. wat? Afaik most serious attempts for electric (battery-powered) aircraft have been fairly conventional fixed-wing designs. As you seem to like youtube videos, here are couple:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uoy3Efsxp3o from Airbus
I think the Pipistrel one is actually already shipping today.
 is the Volocopter (18 rotor drone), but some weird video (titled "The Amazing Biggest Drone in the World"). This video is published by Volocopter, and more comprehensive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OazFiIhwAEs
 covers the eHang 184 (4 twin rotors), the Quadro UAS (20 rotors), the Aero-X ("flying bike" with 2 ducted fans), the Flike (3 twin rotors, coming to market in 2016 (?)), and the Volocopter (18 rotors).
As far as I know, no rocket or military fighter jet has ever been certified to carry paying passengers for exactly this reason. We're talking about shuttling people around, not highly trained test pilots.
Balloons are actually far safer than fixed wing aircraft for other reasons. It would take a complete loss of the canopy for a balloon to fall out of the sky. When they run out of fuel, they just drift slowly to the ground.
Ballistic parachutes are a last resort option, and add a large amount of weight and complexity to the aircraft. Not to mention that they do not scale up to larger passenger aircraft. It's not even comparable to the safety afforded by a stable airframe.
Except a ballistic parachute does absolutely nothing for you in the scenario where > 90% of accidents happen: take off and landing. Even the most advanced BRS systems on Cirrus planes require 1000 feet AGL. There's simply no getting around the basic physics of this problem.
With a light plane, you can do a lot with a dead stick. They have remarkably generous glide slopes (nearish to a mile horizontal travel for every 1,000 vertical feet). Not to mention being inherently stable whether under power or not.
In the R22 two-seater the best glide ratio is about 4:1 ( 4ft horizontal for 1ft drop ) and those at my local airfield practice autorotation to landing all day long.
Apparently the worst helicopters for autorotation are those with Kamov's superimposed coaxial rotor system, which struggle to reach 2:1 for some aerodynamic reason I don't know.
This is a common misconception. Helicopters can glide to a landing just like airplanes.
Here's a demonstration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTqu9iMiPIU
(Good sport, though. And I also thought a helicopter would drop like a rock without power.)
There have been rare cases where a mechanical failure seizes the main rotor, such as the crash of the WNBC news chopper (N8617B) in 1986. This particular incident was caused by poor maintenance, however.
Do people think that others are flying around everyday in machines that will likely kill them in case of a malfunction? Is the media is covering up all the helicopter related fatalities?
Something like this that connects the exurbs to the city would be a game changer. I would imagine inner city luxury housing would take a big hit. Anyways, super cool to see that thing take off.
Also, steering appears to be entirely based on differential thrust. Power loss = uncontrolled descent. Good luck getting that certified...
Too good to be true usually isn't true.
Absolutely. I didn't mean to disparage the idea of an electric drivetrain for aircraft in general. Check out Pipistrel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiADDbeFanU) they're doing some incredible things right now. They have a LiPo powered twin seat LSA trainer in production that gets an hour of flight time at 80 knots and 600lb useful load with hotswap batteries. This is the future of trainers IMO.
Thank you for the Pipistrel link!
It would also almost certainly require line of sight and a directional antenna that can track the aircraft. Batteries could be used in the aircraft to at least land safely if there were a loss in power.
But currently we have trouble transmitting 5 watts across the 7mm gap between a wireless charger and a phone. 50kw over a distance of 1-300km is a very long way away.
If the craft were entirely wirelessly powered, then of course the system would have to be able to transfer 100kw. But the link(if even 50kw were ever feasible) could be designed for a lower power level, and the aircraft could draw from an onboard battery bank for extra power during these phases of flight.
Kind of like how hybrid drive vehicles undersize the internal combustion engine and then draw power from the ICE and the electric system during heavy acceleration.
But we still need to find a reasonable way to wirelessly transmit large amounts of power safely and efficiently.
A quick google turned up this which has a top speed of 296km/h with a 120hp(89kw) engine, and it's likely a good bit lighter than the Lilium with a full battery load.
edit: added 
These guys do it all the time:
Also, it has a full aircraft parachute as a last resort.
Helicopters, as opposed to this vehicle, have the ability to be controlled even when power is lost. This is a much safer failure mode for personal aircraft then depending on a chute: useless at altitudes high enough to be fatal but low enough to result in a failed chute deployment.
Similarly, winged aircraft can glide, where this one cannot, given enough forward velocity.
This thing will drop like a rock in an incidence of power failure at low altitude and the operator will have no way to control where it hits the ground (for either their safety or the safety of those on the ground).
As far as the flaps, they are not sufficient for controlled flight. Increasing the angle of one of them increases both lift and drag on that wing so you have at best a dutch roll/adverse yaw and at worst a flat spin.
What about a small fuel/turbogenerator drop pod for just the takeoff/climb?
The whole appeal of electric motors is that they are basically solid state. You don't need to change oil or perform a ton of regular maintenance. Just replace bearings every few years if ever and you're good to go. Gas/jet engines need to be overhauled regularly which contributes a large portion of the operating costs. For instance, a Cessna 172R/SP uses a 180 hp I/O-360 engine that needs to be overhauled (completely disassembled) every 4000 hours at a cost of around $20,000. That's $5 an hour just for the engine replacement assuming no excessive wear or metal flakes in the oil are found.
Note I said drop pod.
The whole appeal of electric motors is that they are basically solid state.
I think beamed power has a lot of potential for electric jets. It's sort of magic. You get to ditch the heavy fuel tanks/batteries, and you still get the benefits of low maintenance costs for electric motors.
It's not sort of magic, it would be actual magic.
I'll pass on sitting in the tiny plane with a 100kw laser pointed at it.
Now that's one place where a tinfoil hat might come in really handy.
300km is probably optimistic for this prototype. Wings are pretty short. But with extremely good lift to drag ratio (as seen in gliders, the best of which can get over 70 lift to drag), you could definitely get even 1000km range even with existing battery tech.
Range = (ratio of battery mass used for horizontal flight to total mass) * (lift to drag ratio) * (efficiency of propulsion system) * (specific energy of batteries)/(acceleration due to gravity)
So, if cruise-batteries are 0.5 of the total mass, lift to drag is 50, propulsion system is 0.75 efficient (75%), battery specific energy is 1MJ/kg (or 10^6 m^2/s^2 in alternate units, about 300Wh/kg, as good as very best lab-scale lithium ion batteries... lithium-sulfur is better), and gravity is 10m/s^2 (rounded), you have a range of:
0.5 * 50 * .75 * 1(MJ/kg)/(10m/s^2) = 0.5 * 50 * .75 * 10^6(m^2/s^2)/(10m/s^2) = 1875km.
Of course, 50% useful cruise battery weight is probably optimistic (although not too different from long distance airliners whose take-off mass can be roughly half fuel) and a lot of weight will be needed for the vertical take off and landing motors plus the payload, but it does show you what's possible even with existing battery tech.
I tend to think the prototype they showed probably won't get 300km range. Probably need longer wings for that. But their eventual goal is achievable. By the way, for long range, they're not likely using LiPo but lithium ion, perhaps those ubiquitous 18650 cells that Panasonic makes (of Tesla fame). And greater range is possible, especially as lithium-sulfur batteries start becoming more widely available (to speak nothing of lithium air).
As far as losing power to an engine, well, there are lots of engines. Also, electric motors and batteries are very simple and can be built to have extremely high reliability. The batteries and propulsion system can be built to be totally distributed, in which case there's really no feasible scenario where power is lost (unless control is lost, in which case you'd be screwed in a conventional airplane or helicopter, too). Additionally, a ballistic parachute can be and is used.
I don't think this flight is a breakthrough. A decent team could do the same thing they just did, and lots of people (including at NASA Langley) have been working on the same goal. Teaming a bunch of electric motors capable of tilting is a thing that several groups are pursuing, lots of people have done at smaller scale already, and it's only a matter of time before it's done at a large scale as well.
There are other considerations at work here as well. Having a 70l/d ratio means huge wings on something that will be this heavy. Gliders have big wings for their size and they have a very very low gross weight (ASK 21 2 seater at 900kg and a 17m wingspan). On top of just being absolutely massive, having all that wing area can cause problems in other than optimal weather situations. An ultra low wing loading will mean that the craft responds like a kite to any air movement so it would be very uncomfortable for the passengers who just want to get where they're going.
I agree that the chances of power loss are remote, especially compared to the current tech in use, but especially with new designs, you need a way of handling it. The issue isn't so much any individual motor but the batteries and support systems. They'll need a cooling system most likely and any failure will turn the whole thing into a Note 7. Also, sorry about using LiPo as a generic term. LiS batteries will definitely help the situation somewhat.
You refer to L/D ratio and lack of wing loading as if it's the same thing but it isn't. High performance gliders are generally ballasted (sometimes about half the weight is ballast) in order to increase the wing loading and increase flight speed. Our aircraft would have a 300km/h cruise speed, and so will similarly have a fairly high wing loading, even if it does need long, high aspect-ratio wings. This is helped by the fact that the sort of high performance lithium-ion batteries that you'd be likely to use (i.e. like Tesla uses) would be a good twice as dense as fuel. This increases your effective wing loading for the same outer mold line, allowing higher speed efficient cruise at the same altitude.
As far as battery and support system being a central failure point:
One interesting thing with electric propulsion is it's fairly easy to split the batteries and subsystems up /as well/ as the motors. So each motor pod could have its own small battery nearby for (possibly emergency) take-off and landing (this could also help reduce cabling mass, especially for the high currents you're likely to need for the vertical takeoff and landing portions). The cruise batteries could remain centralized, since you'll need a lot more of them and mass efficiency will be critical (and you could rely on your very good glide ratio).
Flying cars for the masses are a delusional pipe dream.
[Edit] Obviously I know nothing about aviation. So based on the comments below I stand corrected.
I imagine charging time would be an issue; there would have to be well-stocked supplies of batteries near each dropoff point, and some way to quickly swap them out.
> potentially for everyone if the economics of sharing these works out where regular folks could afford to hail these and the system could scale.
The idea is:
- You don't need pilot training
- The cost of the aircraft is shared among many people. You're not meant to buy one for yourself, you're meant to hail it like a taxi or Uber.
Plus, the only price I could find for a 1960s Cessna 172 is $12k. If you can't afford that, you can't buy a decent car either.
Seems unusually low, compared to the offer prices listed here:
I was just replying to the price comparison with a car. Going up the thread, part of the premise was that they couldn't afford to buy a Cessna "Nevermind the maintenance, training and more".
Anyhow, the point's already been made (several times) that the purchase price isn't the only consideration.
A fleet of these forming an aerial taxi service would be the next step
Source: Am a pilot.
Insurance is about ~600 a year from what I gather.
So not sure how you go from 1k to 8k
Hangers are indeed expensive depending on the area, but tie down fees are like $60 a month
It's clearly not, since they describe situations in which onboard systems would provide notifications to "the pilot" directing them to land the plane.
That's also an optimistic outlook. One contributor to traffic is people using a whole car just for themselves; since we've not figured that out after several decades of having cars, I doubt making them fly will solve the problem.
I can imagine niches for this, and wish them luck, but I don't think it'll make a dent in mass commuter transport.
"Silicon Valley Early Adopter CONOPs and Market Study"
One of the consequences was that global borders essentially become worthless, and people instead join hives that best represent their ideals.
and physics of course, that would suggest a 300km range to be exceptionally unlikely. But what use is physics in the face of such reckless marketing hype?
That's a target, not what they've demonstrated.
Wonder how heavy the demo was and what part of the weight was batteries. Everything else is just along for the ride. Short wings -> needs lots of speed to get any advantage from the wings.
- 300 km range - Travel from London to Paris in one hour.
If this whole contraption weighed more than 100 KG for the demo I'd already be very impressed, even more so if 80% of that wasn't battery weight and if it could stay aloft for more than the one minute demo.
This is not so simple.
The first and only interesting problem these guys should solve is how they are going to power it. Everything else can wait until then.
Moller International has received a number of emails from newsletter subscribers who have expressed concern that MI’s lead in VTOL capable flying cars is being upstaged by companies like Airbus, Ehang, Embraer, Google, and Joby. Nothing that is presently contemplated as a battery powered flying car is a threat to the technology that has been developed by MI.
Incidentally, it it wrong that a kind of want a Moller v. Lilium PR battle to be a thing?
Even so, it would be hilarious. Maybe we can set them up? Mail them both saying you're ready to pre-order but are also looking at the other?
Incredible that Moller is still going at it and that he still manages to get more money. Elizabeth Holmes could learn a thing or two from Moller.
That they flew it without a person is understandable (its a new aircraft after all and who wants to kill a test pilot really?) but the cockpit area was completely empty and that is a problem. Test flight data is really only valid if you're testing actual flight conditions. So they really should have had crash test dummy and enough ballast to at least simulate the mass of a pilot in command. The thing that was even more challenging was that the lift moment of the vertical fans in the rear of the wing are behind the center of mass for the pilot. So all of the pilots mass is going to create a pitch down moment on the much smaller front fans. There are really good engineering reasons that most flying car prototypes put the weight over (or under) the wing. They could of course be counter balancing the weight of the batteries that are all located behind the wing, but that would make carrying the weight in the pilot seat even more important.
The wing being behind the pilot was probably done for visibility reasons but it will make it very hard to get those front fans retracted or at least out of the way (because of the extra drag they create).
At a guess and judging from the way it takes off the COG is just aft of the leading edge of the wing so adding a pilot would have the effect you describe.
Scaling a model is hard enough so they definitely should get some credit for that but the way it is spec'd right now it would very much surprise me if they ever go to any level of airworthiness with passengers. Battery tech would have to go through some kind of revolution (and then you'll immediately have a ton of competitors, quite a few of those are much further along in creating viable aircraft but none based on the VTOL model because of its obvious limitations).
Has 126 Kg of batteries, can regenerate when it loses altitude (forget that with ducted fans) and has a pretty good wing surface compared to the Ilium:
Not being VTOL it manages to get about 1 hours worth of flying time (but you'd need to keep a reserve).
So there is no question about whether or not electric aircraft are possible. It's just that I don't see the VTOL/short fixed wing and small ducted fan combination work out, especially not at 300 Km/h where drag forces would be considerable, no matter how nice the body looks.
It really is an electric version of the Moller Skycar.
It looks like an extremely large ducted fan R/C plane with VTOL. Calling it a "jet" in the parlance of today seems like a stretch. Are ducted fans "jets"? I guess the argument could be made. I would think the people buying these would very well think of a jet as propulsion from combustion. Also, the FAA and turbine (jet) rating... I could go on...
The VTOL is awesome, and something I think we'll see more of as quadcopter technology scales to more robust .gov missions. The applications for this tech are limitless...
What useful definition of jet am I missing (beyond the trivial "can't be electric") where this can't usefully be called a jet?
Designers (of subsonic devices) rapidly moved to a more efficient turbofan design where the exhaust provides very little thrust and the engine core is used as merely a torque engine to turn a rather larger shrouded fan which actually produces the thrust.
So... if you pull out the internal combustion engine and replace it in a straightforward way with an electric motor that drives the same shaft, are you really changing the nature of the device?
Just like "turbojet" derives from it being a turbine-powered jet, I think the new electric version should be called a "magnejet". Or just "jet" for short.
- they use lithium ion batteries.
- they use LEAPTech style engine layout with multiple small engines (they don't name check it, I just recognise it from https://www.nasa.gov/content/experimental-wing-tests-electri...).
- there's a backup parachute.
- they don't mention autonomous flying, but you also don't have direct control of the vehicle --- a computer mediates.
- for some reason they insist on calling ducted fans 'electric jet engines'.
That's about it. Anything I missed?
From an engineering perspective, if something produces thrust primarily by producing a jet of surrounding matter (water or air) and taking advantage of Newton's third law, I'm not sure I see the issue. There's no exposed airfoil, and it doesn't appear to care about Bernouilli's law (except for lift).
Volocopter, first manned flight, April 2016:
In Germany, it's not even allowed to do agricultural aircraft flying based on anything but a licensed airstrip - the only kind of aircraft permitted to start and land anywhere are SAR and military aircraft, and gliders can only land anywhere (simple physics) but have to be started from a licensed airstrip. Helicopters (SAR/military excepted) also may start and land only on licensed helipads, which won't be licensed in cities.
And to those imagining a future of living in rural countryside and flying to work... no way cities are going to permit random people flying over it, not after 9/11.
Playing with the numbers here:
...shows it can be made to work, provided the thing has very low drag (I was using a battery specific energy of 200 for a LiPoly cell). Given it's a streamlined blob with stubby wings, that seems vaguely plausible.
Anyone with a better grasp of the principles want to comment?
Update: I found their tech page (see link upthread). They use lithium ion. They have about the same specific energy as lithium polymer.
edit: this is also very generous because it assumes you don't need to takeoff and climb. Max cruise on the SR-20 is 155kn so the power requirement is as much as 20% greater
Their mission is to release to the public in 2025 however, which makes the goal much more likely to be hit with improvements in technology.
Also, what about helicopters? I guess the pilot might still have control after losing power because the blades would still be spinning?
Can't put 1,500kg into a Cessna - but if you are happy with 130kg of batteries for 50-60 minutes of max flight time, you can buy the Pipistrel Alpha Electro today.
What would be interesting would be a very long power cable - a mains lead - that took the thing to some useful altitude before detaching. I can't see myself having a reel of copper, 1km long in the back garden any time soon though.
 wrote my thesis with them, http://openbatt.org
That's a bad sign. Battery technology is the gating factor for electric planes and not even calling that out suggests they have not solved it.
Great design, great prototype, now give us the power consumption specs. Show me where that 300km is coming from.
Jet fuel - 46 MJ/kg
Lithium-ion battery - less than 1 MJ/kg
Electric powered vehicles like this would solve that issue and allow quick travel around high density cities, they could land on top of buildings to pick up passengers. Current battery technology should be enough to support these short range trips around a city.
A good example would be a corporate executive traveling from their NYC headquarters to the local airport to board their business jet. It's not a long distance trip but helicopters are not suitable.
Recovering the cable would also be fun (assuming it stays on the ground to save weight).
Maybe they can partner with uBeam for wireless energy transmission and screw two sets of investors in one go.
In other words, getting batteries with, say, 4 times the current specific energy would already make a lot of electric flight applications practicable.
At the current rate of improvement (5% to 8% per year), we should be there in about 20 to 30 years :-)
Flypod or something that can be used by anyone in a regular conversation.
Several people in this thread have pointed out the major reason that this airplane design is not viable, which is the weight of the batteries.
I have developed an alternative that I would like to patent. I asked for an introduction here:
But I did not receive responses. Subsequent to this, I reached out directly to patent attorneys I thought would be qualified. Here I ran into a big problem. I will quote my reply email:
>"After speaking with the partner who handles our firm’s major aviation client, we have determined that taking you on as a client would likely result in a conflict of interest. This is more than just a matter of potentially overlapping subject matter. The fact that you wish to license your IP to other aviation companies would actually mean we couldn’t represent both you and our other client in those negotiations. In effect, we’d be on both sides of the discussion, which is by definition a conflict of interest."
This is actually an issue with any qualified patent attorney who might take on this case.
I would therefore like to work with an aviation engineer. I believe we could draft the patent language ourselves.
I don't want to include a terrible amount of information here, but I want to list one benefit of the invention:
- Solves the distance issue.
jacquesm's analysis in this thread is absolutely correct. This is what motivated me to ask if there were any aviation engineers in this thread. The cost to entering the aviation market is extremely high and the only viable means of doing so is via the patent approach, so I would like to work with someone who has had patents in their own name.
Please let me know if you would be someone who might be able to collaborate with me on this project, and I will get in touch with you. Thank you!
Even if you get a patent passed the examiner, you might have gotten claims that were too broad or too narrow. You might have made statements during prosecution that make asserting the application difficult. You might have written the claims in a way that is difficult to enforce.
I want to license to those clients. It's kind of a Catch-22.
The most qualified attorneys I can find easily (by Googing) are right out.
At this point I think the best approach is to pair with an aviation engineer who has gone through all this... hence my comment here.
It's by no means a simple situation. That said, I'm not really sure where I can find such engineers. I assume most of them are working with large companies and are not open to this sort of collaboration.
If I built a prototype (doing so is not in my plans) then it would be at a very small scale and I personally don't know how to do the calculations to see how it applies to larger scales. In other words, if I had the prototype flying around me right now it wouldn't help convince me that it's possible and plausible. Further calculations are necessary and only an aviation company (or an aviation engineer) is able to perform those.
Are you an aviation engineer? Do you know someone who could spend a few minutes on this case? I will need a small NDA but I am not very concerned of IP theft, just the formalities; the assurance can be verbal via email.
Unfortunately the medium would have to be via email as public disclosure prevents patenting and I don't know at what point (if ever) I would get to that stage. Let me know if you or someone you can put me in touch with could look at this briefly. Your profile here does not list an email.
Thank you for your assistance.
This is a disruptive concept regarding where people will choose to live, assuming that the details can be solved.
I'm more than skeptical about the quality of the safety features if there are glaring mistakes in the language describing it.
This is part of DAPRA's VTOL X-Plane program:
That low weight is an impressive feat of engineering, but it's also a big disadvantage for any real world applications because passenger and cargo weight is going to be a huge problem. You can't build passengers out of aluminum and carbon fiber. Even combustion-powered, light aircraft have serious problems with weight, and their pilots frequently have to work passenger weight into their fuel calculations.
My guess is that this technology will do wonders for aerial photography, scientific research and maybe even military reconnaissance, but transportation and any kind of serious shipping are still a very long way off.
My current commute is 10 km of horrendous traffic.
Driving time on rush hour = 1.5 hours
Flying time @ 100kph (average of speed up, slow down and cruise) 6 minutes!
Then it would just fly on it's own to pick up the next customer.
- Airbus suppliers
- Military aerospace companies
- Key tech universities (Munich, Stuttgart) including aerospace oriented engineering
- World class glider manufacturer Schempp-Hirth
First full scale prototype has already been flown.
First manned flight planned for 2019.
On demand air transport planned for 2025.
`Pad 1 please` :)
What makes it so safe?
Safety has been the top priority from day one of Lilium’s development. We’ve incorporated the concept of what we call ‘ultra redundancy’. The aircraft is designed such that it does not have a single point of failure, which means any component can fail in any flight condition and the aircraft will always be able to do an ordinary vertical landing automatically. The objective behind this concept is to make flying a Lilium Jet as simple as driving an electric car. At the same time, we provide an unprecedented level of safety both through a failure-tolerant aircraft and through avoiding pilot errors in stressful situations. For the duration of the flight, the software’s Flight Envelope Protection system rejects unsafe pilot commands. No matter what you do as a pilot, the system will always maintain safe flight conditions. Additionally, the Jet is equipped with a whole-aircraft parachute.
Regulating this is going to be fun.
This is the part about the "flying car" that literally everyone gets wrong. If we are talking USA, ask the FAA if everyone can fly. There is the Class 3 flight physical that is required to fly as a PPL pilot... it is very, very thorough. If you can't pass that, there is a massive and growing sport class of flyers who are not full PPL's but still require pretty expensive training to get certified... and you are quite limited in size and scope.
In short, there is not going to be a massive "flying car" moment in this country unless they are autonomous or remotely piloted by ultra qualified people.
> We are bringing personalized, clean and affordable air travel to everyone.
Either they're trying to con someone, or they intend to drastically lowers the bars to entry: it must be affordable, legal, and mustn't require much skill. I'm also seeing a beautiful rendering of those things flying over a dense city lower than some rooftops, and a landing pad with people standing on them, just after one craft took off.
They're gonna need one hell of a lobbying force to pull that off. Or a couple decades proving this stuff is mighty safe.
They explicitly say that the "for everyone" part isn't everyone can fly (or afford to own) one, just that you will be able to hail them via a smartphone app and they'll come to you where you need them, because building suitable landing sites will be relatively inexpensive and attractive to property owners.
FAA and EASA are increasingly looking at performance based, rather than narrow implementation based certification. I agree that the regulatory hurdles are monumental, but they're not insurmountable.
It's described as an air taxi, it references guidance to the pilot; there's no indication that it is self-flying. So, AFAICT, it would be flown by people licensed under whatever regime there is for pilots in the jurisdictions it operates in.
> Regulating this is going to be fun.
It's basically a faster, quieter helicopter taxi. It's not a particularly novel regulatory problem.
No way that'll happen under current regulations of the crushing majority of western countries.
The implied statement that I take from what they are pitching is "I can request my pickup and destination" vs. having to head to the airport where I pick up a fixed route flight. That form of personalization.
The sheer strain this would put on air traffic controllers is unworkable, unless they change how air traffic control is made —'cause there's no way the air above cities is currently uncontrolled, and going through those zones take up at least 30 seconds worth of air controller's attention and talking. (Source: last time I got on a small plane for hobby purpose, we flew close to my city at some point.)
Automation will most likely force a reworking of the ATC network in the near future. For example, if delivery drones really do take of at scale updates will be needed.
We're not there yet.
That said, what's the differential why one would want this instead of an helicopter? It it cheaper? Faster? The site is certainly not telling this.
Aside from not being easily bookable, helicopter rentals today are quite expensive (hundreds to thousands of dollars an hour, depending on the helicopter, origin, and destination).
From the homepage:
"Access inner cities with less noise than a motorbike"
That's a huge difference.
I'm not really impressed by this project to be honest, I'm more interested by cost and energy density of batteries. Can't wait to see how the giga factory impacts the price of batteries.
Also on that note, are there any limitations on the number of batteries we keep creating? Eg, Lithium supply?
Airplanes exist. The future is now!
That's been true for a long, long time, though, and rich people always take the role of vanguarding expensive new technologies. Later it'll get developed into more efficient forms and commoditized.