Lilium Jet, a two-seat lightweight vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) commuter aircraft, is being developed by Lilium Aviation, which is based at the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre in Bavaria, Germany.

Being developed in partnership with European Space Agency (ESA), Climate-KIC, and Unternehmertum, it will be the world’s first fully-electric VTOL aircraft.

The prototype of the Lilium Jet was first unveiled in June 2016. It was developed by conducting a series of flight tests using scaled models of Hexa, Dragon and Falcon. The first flight tests of the aircraft are expected to begin in first quarter of 2017, while service entry is expected in 2018.

The aircraft will be useful for faster intercity travel, as it can complete the journey between San Francisco and Palo Alto in less than 15 minutes and that between Munich and Frankfurt within an hour.

Lilium jet design and features

The egg-shaped Lilium Jet was designed by German aviation start-up Lilium Aviation, which was established in 2015 by Daniel Wiegand along with three co-founders Patrick Nathen, Sebastian Born and Matthias Meiner. The founders studied together at the Technical University of Munich, Germany.

Classed as light sport aircraft (LSA), the Lilium Jet is constructed with lightweight composite materials including carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP). It is designed for flying in daylight with good weather conditions. Being fully-electric, the aircraft is environment-friendly and creates less noise during take-off.

The jet features a retractable landing gear, wing doors, a large boot, and automatically folding wings. It can take-off vertically and fly like a helicopter to access residential areas in towns and cities. It requires 50ft x 50ft of space for landing and take-off, and can optionally be equipped with a parachute.

Lilium jet cabin, cockpit and avionics

"The first flight tests of the aircraft are expected to begin in first quarter of 2017, while service entry is expected in 2018."

Lilium Jet has a side-by-side cockpit integrated with touch screen and fly-by-wire computer-assisted control system. Featuring panoramic windows, it can accommodate two passengers in the cabin.The onboard computer, which controls all engines and flaps, features software-based flight envelope protection system to reject unsafe pilot commands. The pilot requires approximately 20 hours of training to guide the plane.

The aircraft also features airborne GPS navigation systems.

Lilium jet engine and performance details

The aircraft is powered by 36 ducted electric fan engines, which generate approximately 320kW (435hp) of power. The electric fan engine is mounted along the wings and front pods. The batteries can be recharged using any wall plug.

The aircraft has a cruising velocity between 250km/h and 300km/h (160mph to 190mph), and a range of 300km (190mi). Its take-off weight is 600kg and payload capacity is 200kg.

Financing for the Lilium aircraft’s development

Lilium received seed funding for the development of the aircraft from German investor Frank Thelen and his company, e42.

Atomico, a global venture capital firm based in London, contributed €10m ($10.8m) under series A round funding for the development of Lilium Jet in December 2016.

The aircraft development is also partly funded by European Union (EU).