On-Demand Personal Aviation Takes Off

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On-Demand Personal Aviation Takes Off

On April 20, 2017, a two-seat prototype of the “Lilium Jet,” the first zero-emission electric airplane capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), completed a series of rigorous flight tests in the skies above Germany. It is the only electric aircraft capable of both VTOL and jet-powered flight, using its wings for lift, similar to a conventional airplane.

This advanced capability consumes around 90 percent less energy than multi-rotor drone-style aircraft, like the eHang 184. This will enable the five-seat production version of the Lilium Jet to achieve a range of more than 200 miles with a maximum cruising speed of 200 miles/hour. In flight, the Jet’s power consumption per mile will be comparable to a five-passenger electric car.

Take-off and landing for a Lilium Jet only requires a small open space or a landing pad on a building, alleviating traffic on congested roads.

Lilium is a startup created by a team out of the Technical University of Munich.1 In December 2016, it received 10 million euros in funding from London-based venture capital firm, Atomico. The plan is for a network of inexpensive landing pads, in-and-around congested cities. The business plan uses the mass produced five-seat vehicles to provide a ride-hailing service for people needing to get places where traffic is a problem. The Lilium website gives an example of a Manhattan to JFK taxi trip now involving 55 minutes and costing $56-to-73, depending on traffic. But, using the Lilium service, it will only take five minutes. Initially the cost would be $36, but eventually it should drop to $6.2

This is a very big deal!

Imagine traveling from San Francisco’s Marina to work in downtown San Jose—a drive that would normally occupy the better part of two hours—in only 15 minutes. What if you could save nearly four hours round-trip between São Paulo’s city center and the suburbs in Campinas? Or, imagine reducing a 90-plus minute stop-and-go commute from Gurgaon to an office in central New Delhi to a mere six minutes. More importantly, what if the total cost was even cheaper than today’s drive.

Every day, millions of hours are wasted on the road, worldwide. Last year, the average San Francisco resident spent 230 hours commuting between work and home—that’s half a million hours of productivity lost every single day. In Los Angeles and Sydney, residents spend seven whole working weeks each year commuting, two of which are wasted unproductively stuck in gridlock...

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