FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Air taxi startup Lilium has staged a successful first flight of a five-seater prototype that it hopes to bring in 2025 to whisk passengers between cities without the hassle of an airport check-in.
The battery-powered aircraft operated by remote control, took down a airport of Munich, marks a milestone for the German startup backed by investors, including Atomico, Tencent, LGT and obvious Ventures.
“In less than two years, we are able to design, build and successfully fly an airplane that will serve as our template for mass-production,” said Lily’s co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand of the May 4 test flight.
Video footage provided by the company showed the aircraft taking off slowly floating in the air. Not taking a spin around the airport as well as an earlier two-seater prototype did in 2017.
The members of the Lilium team cheered and hugged each other as the girl ‘hover’ went to plan. Tested and work to win airworthiness certification from European and US air safety regulators will follow.
The Lilium Jet wants to be a revolution in short-distance air travel – the batteries to power 36-electric motors which are face-down on take-off, but swing to the power level flight.
Take off from a standing start is just a tenth of the energy of a traditional runway take-off, so that even with the current battery technology, can fly up to 300 km (186 miles) in an hour, Chief Commercial Officer, Remo Gerber, told Reuters.
“What is so interesting about the device is that it does not depend on a ground-breaking battery innovation – it is a part of what is known today,” Gerber said.
Lilium, founded in 2015 by Wiegand and three friends of the Technical University of Munich, has raised around $100 million from investors.
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The plans to own and operate its own fleet of air taxis, which in the first instance, be conducted by pilots with a commercial license. In the longer term, the startup hopes to develop a self-administered version.
Lilium is betting on convenience, it offers passengers a 15-minute check-in for boarding when they want at a landing site – in contrast to the hassle of the airport and the integration into the schedules.
“The exciting part is that, for the first time in the aviation industry, we can create a customer journey end-to-end,” said Gerber.
Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Kirsten Donovan