Long a Reality Only in Sci-Fi Media, Flying Cars Just Might Be Arriving Sooner Than You Think
Fancy flying to work in a taxi? Or stumbling into a cab after a heavy night out, only to find yourself nauseous and suspended several hundred feet above the ground?
If you answered yes (and of course you did), you’re in luck, as it appears that the first flying cars are hovering into view, en route from the world of tomorrow.
German start-up Lilium unveiled its prototype five-seat flying taxi on May 16, after a tentative test flight which saw the vehicle take off, hover, and then land again.
It’s not much, and currently the vehicle is incapable of moving horizontally, but company founders hope to push towards mass production by 2025.
Lilium is not the only company heavily invested in the idea of flying taxis buzzing across the sky. US-based firm, Vimana Global, conducted trials of its own vehicle in 2018, over the sun-blasted sands of Dubai. Vimana’s offering can cruise at 244 mph, and carry a payload of up to 400kg – which is equivalent to around four and a half people. It relies on blockchain technology (we don’t know why), and hopes to launch by 2020. At the time of writing, Vimana’s website had not been updated in 11 months, while their Twitter feed has lain inactive since August 2018. We’re not holding our breath. Aerospace giant, Boeing, tested their “Autonomous Passenger Air Vehicle,” which promises a 50 mile range, in January 2019.
In the run-up to the Lilium test flight and announcement, Croc-loving co-founder, Patrick Nathen let loose with a stream of cryptic hashtags on twitter. #soexcited #whowantsaride #startup #germandisruption
Lilium seems to be a long way off actually disrupting anything – at least until their taxi can act as more than a glorified elevator, but the promised vehicle looks more like a realistic proposition than any of the competitors.
The five-seat capacity will make it genuinely useful for ride-sharing and day trips with the family, while the 300km (186 mile) range, means that it can be used for fast intercity travel. In Europe, where the vehicle is likely to launch, that gives it the range to drive through several countries.
Unlike traditional drones and UAVs, which rely on between one and four motors to stay airborne, Lilium’s craft boasts a staggering 36 separate motors integrated across its four wings. It has no tail, no rudder, no oil circuits, no gearboxes, and no variable-pitch fan blades.
There’s no word on how much a drone capable of carrying passengers would actually cost, and whether or not a new type of license would be required to operate one, but we suspect that very few, if any, would end up in private ownership.
Running costs are also an unanswered question. Getting airborne and staying there will always be more energy intensive than rolling across the ground, and while electricity is cheap, it’s not altogether free.