Mechanics & Locomotion

Jun 1, 2017

THE FUTURE'S LAUNCH

Meet the Jetsons. They're back from the 1960's into the recent future. Suddenly, the imaginary world of William Hannah and Joseph Barbera became rather realistic. Does it seem too fantastic? That's probably because, it really is!

The idea has been in the minds of many inventors for decades and, so far, there's been not much worth seeing. Many of those inventors have gone bankrupt, others died in the middle of the project, others simply quit their delirious dream.

Personally, I expect the reader to say: "flying cars? Of course it's a ridiculous idea". But are you really sure of it?

There have been many misconceptions over flying cars, which make the idea unworkable. The problem seems to be that many of the solutions presented so far, don't show any significant impact and don't fit our daily lives. Either because they are too big, too expensive, too clumsy or they require big infrastructures to get the devices flying and bringing them down again.

All this is about to change, in a near future.

The German company, with headquarters in Munich, Lilium, founded in 2015 by four aeronautical engineers, has completed successfully the maiden flight of a new prototype of an electric flying car, zero-emissions and low noise.

This prototype had already been subjected to several tests, but this fifth test, ground controlled, was the definitive test so the company steps forward towards a manned flight test. Something which is already scheduled for 2019.

For now, the company aims to build a new prototype with five seats for this job, with the intention of commercializing it as an air taxi, to be used in high density urban environment.

Why a taxi? Well, as usual, it all comes down to money: turning the project profitable, before stepping to a large scale production for personal users.

The company anticipates the operating cost of this vehicle to be close to the one of a regular taxi, as it depends on smaller and cheaper infrastructures.

The prototype

The two seats prototype is the world's first vertical take-off and landing electric jet and many of the tests performed by it focused on the mid-air transition from hovering to horizontal flight.

According to the data supplied by the company, this is a jet propelled jet although it uses 36 ducted fans run by electric motors instead of the regular combustion turbines. The turbines are displayed on the wings and canards, with 12 mobile flaps which direct the air flow vertical wise, for take-off and landing and, then, spin into a horizontal position, in order to move the device into a regular flight.

Each turbine is covered with a protection shield to prevent that the possible fail of one could affect the others. Furthermore, the VTOL is equipped with multiple batteries, which means it has the ability to compensate the loss of any battery in case of any unexpected problems.

At active security level, this mini jet also mounts a huge parachute, able to sustain the whole device in case of total collapse, plus software called "Flight Envelope Protection System" which prevents the pilot to practice any manoeuvre surpassing the minimum security parameters of flight.

"It's the same battery you can find in any Tesla", said Patrick Nathen, co-founder of Lilium and head of the calculation and design sector, in recent interviews.

Nowadays, aviation supported by electric motors is still taking its first steps and the most sophisticated models only allowed one hour flights, to maximum speed of 150 km/h and, still, without vertical take-off and landing.

For the new five seats prototype, the company claims it will "consume less than 90 per cent energy than the one of a drone quadcopter", thus allowing the device to run for 300 km, at a regular speed of 300 km/hour.

Before you archive this news on the shelf of "luxury news, only accessible for the stupidly rich", the same Patrick Nathen remarks that the company's goal is to maintain production and consumption cost, at rather low level, so that everyone can enjoy this vehicle. E he even establishes a comparison between a car ride, between Manhattan and JFK airport, in New York, United States, which lasts for 55 minutes and costs 55 dollars. Lilium is aiming to perform the same ride in five minutes, only for six dollars.

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