Lilium Jet eVTOL Completes First Phase of Flight Testing

 - October 22, 2019, 3:01 AM
The first Lilium Jet full-scale prototype has completed the initial phase of flight testing, which began in May 2019.

Lilium Jet today announced the completion of the first phase of flight testing for its new electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. In trials that started in May, the prototype of the all-electric, five-seat model flew at speeds exceeding 54 knots (100 km/h) and achieved a variety of complex maneuvers, transitioning from vertical to horizontal cruise flight.

The German start-up plans to have the aircraft ready to begin commercial air-taxi operations in 2025. It expects the Lilium Jet to be able to operate for up to around 186 miles on a single charge of its electric batteries and at a top speed of 162 knots. Unlike many eVTOL developments, the company’s business model is based on providing connections between cities, rather than within them.

Lilium also has completed the building works for a 32,292-sq-ft manufacturing facility at its Munich headquarters. Construction has begun for a second larger facility at the same site.

The company, which was founded in 2015 and now employs more than 350 people, also announced the appointment of Yves Yemsi as chief program officer. He was previously head of program quality for Airbus’s A350 widebody airliner.

Lilium Jet is currently recruiting to fill around 150 new roles. It expects to employ around 500 people by 2025 when the production facilities are fully operational.

During the first phase of development work, the Lilium Jet prototype has completed more than 100 ground and flight tests. This work included safety tests for engine, flap and fuse-blow failures on the ground and in the air. The aircraft achieved banking turns of up to 25 degrees and demonstrated the responsiveness of flight controls.

“The Lilium Jet continues to meet our expectations delivering excellent inflight performance and remarkably smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight,” said the company’s head of flight test Leandro Bigarella. “That said, we take a relentless approach to improvement and, like any good testing program, we have had the chance to implement a number of refinements to the aircraft along the way.”

In the next phase of development work, the company will expand the test envelope for the aircraft to prepare for high-speed operations and certification by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency under its newly introduced Special Condition-VTOL rules. In fact, since it is a fixed-wing aircraft, the Lilium Jet could be certified under conventional rules.

Two or more additional prototype aircraft are expected to be added for the next phase of development work. Further flight testing will push the envelope for speed, altitude, and distance.

The Lilium Jet is powered by 36 ducted turbofan engines mounted on the aircraft two sets of wings, which tilt to transition between vertical and horizontal flight. The aircraft has no tail, rudder, variable pitch mechanism, gearboxes, or oil circuits, and only one moving part in each engine. Lilium argues that the reduced number of components will make the aircraft safer and more affordable to operate.

Lilium Jet intends to operate its own aircraft through a network of air-taxi services. It has yet to state where operations will begin, but a company spokesman said that numerous cities have expressed an interest in supporting services. The five-seat aircraft will initially operate with a pilot.

The company declined to comment on an October 10 report in TechCrunch that it is seeking to raise an additional $500 million in funding. A spokesman told AIN that Lilium Jet is “well capitalized” while acknowledging that at some point in the future it will seek to raise more funds. It was formed in 2015 and in September 2017 raised $90 million in funding, adding to $10 million raised at an earlier stage.