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Your Jetsons Flying Car is Here...

Published Friday, April 28, 2017. Category: Airplanes

Flying "cars" are closer than ever to becoming a reality....well, sort of. There are quite a few companies that have introduced early-stage models. Terrafugia has actually flown a couple of prototypes. Sadly, none of these models seem to be very realistic or practical. Lilium may change all of that.

Lilium's version is actually a flying air taxi and isn't meant to be a roadable car. What's unique about it is that it does a vertical take off and landing (VTOL), which changes everything. Rather than having to drive the vehicle to an airport, transform into an airplane and take off, Lilium simply takes off from its parking spot and flies to its destination parking spot, where it lands. No airport runway needed.

Although Lilium calls their aircraft a jet, it doesn't have a jet engine. In fact, it doesn't have an engine at all. It's powered by a very large number of electric fans (36) that are powered by a very large battery pack.

These fans are mounted on movable parts of the wing and canard. They rotate to either lift/lower the aircraft (think helicopter hovering) or to propel it forward like a traditional airplane.

The aircraft is projected to fly at a top speed of 186 MPH and have a range of 186 miles.

Lilium's business plan is to use the aircraft as an Uber-like taxi where people would schedule an on-demand ride from and to specific landing spots.

An example from their website compares a traditional taxi ride and a Lilium aircraft from Manhattan to JFK airport. The taxi would take 55 mins while the Lilium air taxi would take 5 mins.

The prototype Lilium just made its maiden flight. The prototype is a 2-passenger version but Lilium is working on a 5-passenger model.

Even with the 2-passenger prototype flying, there is still quite a bit of debate as to whether the technology is viable. Many people point out that batteries have very poor energy density compared to AvGas or Jet-A fuel. The amount (weight) of batteries required to power an aircraft vertically while carrying 4 - 5 people is significant. To then carry those people a significant distance at a decent speed seems to be too good to be true.

Is this just another pipe dream flying car or will Lilium be the ones to make it happen? Only time will tell.

*Image Credit: Lilium