I’ll never forget being 7 or 8 years old, in the back seat of a car driving beside a major US airport and seeing a Harrier jet taking off vertically, straight up into the air, right by the side of the highway. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing.
A small German company called Lilium, founded by 4 students from the Technical University of Munich has just successfully tested its new concept for a 2-seater Vertical Take-Off and Landing Craft (VTOL). It is a much-simplified version of other fixed-wing VTOLs, such as Britain’s 1967 Harrier jet, having far fewer moving parts, even as compared with the Chinese-designed EHang, which is a quadrocopter.
The EHangs are self-driving one-person flying taxis currently being launched next month in Dubai. Quadrocopters are great to use for observation and are best suited for aerial photography. Forward flight is not their forte, while Lilium’s VTOL can fly 10 times faster and 3 times further than quadrocopters, with the same battery charge.
Lilium claims their VTOL requires only a minimum of 20 hours of flight training but its novel design likely has several regulatory hurdles to overcome before it can begin mass-production.