Lilium, a flying taxi startup based in Germany, has recruited Frank Stephenson, a designer renowned for his work on McLaren P1, Fiat 500 and the modern Mini. Currently the startup is building a lightweight aircraft which is powered by dozens of electric jet engines which are mounted on the wings. The aircraft is intended to fly at 300 kilometers per hour. On one charge the aircraft will cover approximately 186 miles.
The German startup was started three years ago by four students of Munich Technical University and expected to unveil its first fully functional aircraft next year. Commuter flights are on the other hand expected to start by 2025. While aircraft taxis have been featured in Hollywood films they are yet to become a reality though extensive progress has been made by firms that includes Uber and Geely, a Chinese car manufacturer.
All design aspects
The iconic car designer will join Lilium next month and will be charged with the responsibility of designing what will essentially be a car inside and an aircraft on the outside. Stephenson will thus lead in all design aspects including the landing pads of the service and even the departure lounges.
“What’s so incredibly exciting about this is we’re not talking about modifying a car to take to the skies, and we are not talking about modifying a helicopter to work in a better way,” saidStephenson in an interview with Reuters.
The flying electric vehicle that Lilium is developing will be a five-seater. Lilium conducted tests last year on a two-seater aircraft which was could transition mid-air into wing-borne flight in a manner similar to that of drones. Other companies developing flying taxis or cars are relying exclusively on chopper-like technologies and this includes Volocopter, a firm based in Germany and Airbus.
Affordable passenger flights
According to Lilium their flying car consumes power at just the same rate as an electric car and will be capable of offering passenger flights at a cost that will be equivalent to that of cabs though it will be five times faster.
Some of the hurdles that flying cars face include convincing members of the public and regulatory authorities that the aircrafts will be safe for everybody. Currently governments around the world are still trying to figure out regulations for driverless cars as well as drones.
Since its founding over $101 million has been raised by Lilium in early-stage funding. Some of Lilium’s backers include a subsidiary of Tencent Holdings.