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This electric jet can take off vertically and travel almost 190 miles per hour -- and it's already being prototyped

Jeremy Berke
  • Lilium is developing a five-seat electric aircraft that can take off and land vertically.
  • The company envisions using the aircraft like an Uber, hailing it from your phone to take you around the city, avoiding traffic.
  • Lilium says it will start rolling out the technology by 2025.

Move over, Elon Musk. A German startup developing an electric, car-sized aircraft that can take off and land vertically just received a prestigious award - and the technology is seriously impressive.

Founded by a group of entrepreneurs in 2015, Lilium is developing the aircraft as a new form of sustainable urban transportation. The idea is to "revolutionise the way people move in and around the world's cities," Patrick Nathen, one of Lilium's co-founder said in a statement.

Cleantech Group (CTG), an industry research firm for sustainable innovation companies, gave Lilium the Early Stage Company of the Year award in January, as part of CTG's Cleantech 100 awards.

Richard Youngman, CTG's chief executive, said Lilium's technology has the potential to "make the dream of zero emissions mass-transportation a reality."

How the Lillium Jet works

Lilium, which raised $US90 million in September, tested a prototype of its jet last year in Munich. Similar to a quadrocopter drone, Lilium's jet is capable of taking off and landing vertically. Using fans embedded in the wings, the aircraft can hover, land, and take-off on the spot, using minimal energy.

View this content at Business Insider


Once airborne, the fans fold back into the wings - into a horizontal position - and that lift is transformed into acceleration. At that point, Lilium's jet can fly like a regular small aeroplane, reaching speeds of around 190 miles per hour) - all without generating harmful emissions.

The jet's electric engines, which function like traditional turbofans in a regular passenger jet, are designed to be much quieter and vibrate less than regular gas engines. This makes the jet suitable for use in dense urban areas, (where Lilium's founders see the aircraft being used, according to the company's website).

It's also highly nimble, meaning it can traverse corridors between buildings or bridges safely.


Like Uber, but for the sky

Lllium's founders envision hailing a jet from your phone, like hailing an Uber. Once hailed, you'll be able to meet your ride on a rooftop landing port, and take the jet anywhere you want between a network of landing ports - without getting stuck in traffic.

The plane, which is capable of flying for up to an hour on the single charge, will also be able to take short trips between cities. According to the company's website, the jet will be able to travel over 40 miles in around 15 minutes. The jet's total range will be around around 190 miles, making it possible to travel between Boston and New York City in about an hour.

While the jet is still in prototype phase, Lilium hopes to test it with a pilot as early as next year. By 2025, the company hopes to roll out the technology to the public.

Check out this video demonstrating the Lilium jet's first flight: