Lilium was co-founded in 2015 by Daniel Wiegand, Sebastian Born, Patrick Nathen and Matthias Meiner. It is based near Munich, Germany - an internationally renowned high-tech hub for mobility. The founding team met while studying at the Technical University of Munich where they shared a common vision of revolutionizing the way we travel. Each one of them where experts in their field of aerospace and together found the all-Electric Vertical TakeOff and Landing (EVTOL) 5-seater Lilium Jet.
At the start of their journey, they were unsure about where this project was going to end. Today they are 500 employees, with 42 different nationalities, experts in different fields within aerospace, working to build this aircraft in a 10 000 square meter of production hall.
The Lilium jet, flying for the first time at speeds in excess of 100 km/h
Something you have not seen before
The Lilium jet is a 5 seater aircraft that looks similar to the size of a family car. It has two sets of wings, a wing at the back and a canard wing at the front with flaps across the wings. There are 36 small electric engines built into the flaps. The engines are arranged in sets of three that each sit on flaps to articulate separately.
At the start of the flight, the flaps allow you to point them down to provide vertical propulsion, then you rise of the ground to slowly transition those flaps to a horizontal position to achieve forwards momentum from the same engines. Once you have achieved transition, the wing provides lift.
When it comes to charging the airplanes, Lilium hopes that it is going to be a super rapid charging, similar to the technology in the Tesla super chargers. The idea is to be able to quickly charge the airplane during the time the pilot arrives at a destination with passengers until new passengers are onboard. This will of course also depend on the duration of the flight. There will be specifically dedicated places for the aircraft's to takeoff and land.
Electric Air Taxis
Lilium plans not only to build the jets, but also to operate the air taxi booking service itself. Investors are attracted by the idea that Lilium might represent a fundamental change in how we will travel in the future.
"We aim to connect city centers across whole regions with affordable and green high-speed transport at a fraction of the cost of traditional ground infrastructure." Daniel Wiegand, co-founder & CEO
“From underdeveloped regions with poor road infrastructure, to the developed world with traffic congestion and sprawl, new possibilities emerge when convenient daily flight becomes an option for all of us,” said David Wallerstein, Tencent’s chief exploration officer, when the company invested in Lilium in 2017.
The air taxi market is expected to be worth $1.5tn a year by 2040, according to a report from Morgan Stanley, with passenger traffic comprising $851bn of that.
Remo Gerber, Lilium’s chief commercial officer says many cities are interested in the Lilium service as a way of solving an infrastructure problem. “We live in an urbanised world and it is only going to become more so,” he says. “One of the biggest problems governments have is moving people around. Building infrastructure like roads and rail is very expensive — here is an opportunity to do it a thousand times cheaper. We can connect places that would not be economically viable to connect with a bridge or railway.”
Flying-cab drivers wanted
McKinsey & Company has released an article saying that the Urban Air Mobility will require about 60,000 pilots by 2028.
"Before the pandemic, several promising and well-funded players announced that they were aiming to start UAM operation by 2023. Of course, the COVID-19 crisis might slow a few players down and shift the start dates by a year or two. But our modeling, based on announced launch dates and expected delays, success rates, production ramp-ups, and market constraints, suggests the industry could require about 60,000 pilots by 2028, roughly 17 percent of the total number of commercial pilots in 2018." - McKinsey & Company
Why is Lilium focusing on Regional Air Mobility?
Urban Air Mobility can be ingrained in most people’s minds, it can be seen as cars that will fly in a city from place to place, for example thinking that it could fly from your house to a near shop. This does not realy match the reality.
Taking such a short flight is not only impractical (you would need hundreds of landing pads in one city) but it would not actually save you any time as you will likely need to travel to and from the vertiport as well as check-in for your journey. Instead, Lilium wants to do something different, they want to focus on Regional Air Mobility. Different from what most people expect from electric air mobility and different from the vast majority of their competitors. With a range of up to 300km (186 miles), they will be able to focus on connecting entire regions with high-speed transport.
The Lilium Jet’s 36 all-electric engines are integrated into the wings to reduce drag and optimize efficiency, while their ducted design provides a noise shielding advantage over open rotors. The aircraft is being engineered to the requirements of EASA’s SC-VTOL regulations (2019) and their Associated Means of Compliance (2020). The Lilium Jet is being certified by EASA in Europe and the FAA in the United States.
They represent the leading edge in this part of the aviation industry and have secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. As reported to TechCrunch, they have secured $35M from Baillie Gifford, the storied Scottish VC that has backed the likes of Tesla and SpaceX, Spotify, and Airbnb, among others. In 5 years, Lilium wants to be ready to enter the market.
Check out the Pilot Talk Podcast episode together with Oliver Walker-Jones, Communications Lead at Lilium 👇