Coming soon to a driveway near you

By: | Published: May 15, 2016 6:06 AM

Designed for vertical take-off and landing, this personal electric plane won’t need an airport

THIS PRIVATE jet could change the way we look at aircraft forever. Lilium, a Germany-based aviation company, has designed the world’s first electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. In plain terms, the two-seater, egg-shaped plane won’t require runways, for one.

For take-off, Lilium Jet—designed by German engineers Daniel Wiegand, Patrick Nathen, Sebastian Born and Matthias Meiner—would require no more than a level surface that’s at least 49×49-inch large. This means, there could come a day in the not-so-distant future when people start parking their jets in their backyards. And that’s precisely the goal. While the jet will initially only be able to fly in and out of airfields. Lilium’s CEO Daniel Wiegand said in a press release, “We are going for a plane that can take-off and land vertically and does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport.” The plane takes off and lands vertically, meaning it can use helipads. The aircraft has a top speed of 250 mph and a range of 300 miles on a single charge.

Another thing—the Lilium Jet won’t need hundreds of hours of training. A pilot’s licence and a minimum of 20 hours’ training will be enough to get you into the driver’s seat, and once there, you’ll be able to control the plane using a joystick. Though it may sound terrifying, the plane is actually built to be safer than a helicopter, with automatic take-off and landing, and back-up systems for batteries, engines and electronics in place. While almost anyone may be able to fly the Lilium Jet, nighttime cruising is off limits. The aircraft is designed for flying in daylight, and where the weather conditions are ‘good’.

The project, run by the four Munich University graduates, began in 2015 with several prototypes based on a similar model. This, however, is the group’s first VTOL aircraft. For now, all this flying remains as fictional as the Jetsons in the popular American animated sitcom by the same name—an experimental flight of a prototype scheduled for 2017, with the hope that full-scale production could take place as early as 2018. While how much a private jet in your backyard will cost you is still unclear, those interested can get on a waiting list and be among the first to possibly make science-fiction a reality.

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