Lilium GmbH is a Germany-based start-up co-founded in 2015 by four aerospace engineers and product designers — Daniel Wiegand, Sebastian Born, Patrick Nathen and Matthias Meiner — all from the Technical University of Munich (Wessling is a municipality located near Munich, Germany). Wiegand originally conceived of the basic concept in 2013. Initially, the company received funding from the European Space Agency and the European Union’s Climate-KIC program, Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate innovation to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The company is now working on its five-seat Lilium Jet production model, but this page covers the initial development of the two-seat prototype.
The Lilium Eagle electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) prototype jet was designed to demonstrate the company's initial two seat aircraft, which was to have a cruising speed of 300 km/h (186 mph, 160 kt), range of 300 km (186 miles) and a payload of 200 kg (440 lb). The eVTOL has 36 ducted electric fans, 12 on each rear wing and six on each side of the canard. The eVTOL takes off vertically like a helicopter then transitions to fly like a jet for forward flight. All ducted fans tilt beyond 90 degrees for vertical flight; the front canards were expected to retract during forward flight. The eVTOL is considered a light sport aircraft and was intended to recharge overnight from a standard electrical outlet, producing no tailpipe emissions.
Several safety features were envisioned for the operational two-seat aircraft. Thirty-six ducted fans not only provide redundancy but each motor nacelle is also shielded to prevent a failure in one from affecting others. In addition, the power cells are designed for continuous flight even if one or more battery cells goes bad. The aircraft was designed to be easily piloted (requiring a Sport Pilot's License) and Lilium’s Flight Envelope Protection System would prevent a pilot from performing maneuvers that would exceed the aircraft's flight parameters.
Operational concept of the 2-seat Eagle prototype. (Lilium)
During development, Lilium tested several sub-scale demonstrators called the Dragon, Falcon and Hexa. The half scale Falcon flew in 2015. The two-seat "Eagle" prototype completed a series of unmanned test flights in April 2017. The team also studied a design where the wings would fold forward, allowing the aircraft to be driven as a car and recharge overnight from a standard 240 V electrical outlet.
Following the successful test flights of two-seat Eagle prototype, Lilium moved forward with a five-seat version. On May 16, 2019, Lilium announced the first flight of its untethered and unmanned 5-seat Lilium Jet, which took place on May 4, 2019 at the Special Airport Oberpfaffenhofen airport in Munich, Germany. Extensive ground testing took place before its maiden flight. The five-seat version is also powered by 36 all-electric jet engines which allows for a vertical take-off and landing with an efficient horizontal flight.
Lilium 5-seater all electric jet unmanned untethered first flight May 4, 2019 in Munich, Germany.
In the first three years, the company brought together a team of top managers, designers and engineers with backgrounds from world-renowned companies including Airbus, Gett, Tesla and McLaren. By mid-2018, the workforce had grown to 200 employees from over 15 different countries. The company received some initial funding from the Technical University of Munich, the European Space Agency (ESA), European Union and Atomico, founded by Niklas Zennström, the co-founder of Skype. The company announced in September 2017 that it had completed its Series B funding round with raised $90M, with financial backing by investor groups including Tencent; LGT, the international private banking and asset management group; Lilium’s Series A backer, Atomico; and Obvious Ventures, whose co-founder Ev Williams is Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO. The investment brought the company’s total capital raised to more than $100 million. Freigeist (formerly e42) were Lilium’s seed investors.
Predicted Lilium Jet "Eagle" Characteristics (April 2017):
- Aircraft type: eVTOL aircraft
- Capacity: 2 passengers (flown uncrewed)
- Cruising speed: 300 km/h (186, mph, 160 kt)
- Maximum speed: 400 km/h (249 mph, 240 kt)
- Range: 300 km (186 miles)
- Payload: 200 kg (440 lb)
- Empty weight: 440 kg (970 lb)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 640 kg (1,410 lb)
- Aircraft wing type: Rear wing with a retractable canard
- Propulsion configuration: distributed electric ducted fans powered by batteries
- Ducted fans: 36 electric fans. 12 on each rear wing and 6 on each forward canard.
- Landing gear. 3 skid-type landing gear
- First flight: April 2017 (uncrewed)
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- Article: German Ultralight VTOL Innovations, Vertiflite, Sep. 1, 2016
- Lilium Blog: Introducing the future of transport, Lilium, Sept. 19, 2016
- Article: The Demand for On-Demand Mobility, Vertiflite, Jan. 1, 2017
- Article: Air Mobility Bonanza Beckons Electric VTOL Developers, Vertiflite, Mar. 1, 2017
- Press release: Lilium celebrates successful flight tests of world’s first electric VTOL jet, Lilium, Apr. 20, 2017
- Article: Lilium plans five-seater air taxi after successful unmanned flight, New Atlas, Apr. 21, 2017
- Article: Electric VTOL Jet Designed for Air Taxi Takes Flight. Will the Lilium jet become the Uber of the skies?, Flying Magazine, Apr. 25, 2017
- Article: World's First Pure Electric VTOL Aircraft Takes Flight – Video, Inside Eevs, Apr. 27, 2017
- Article: Forget Electric Cars: Get Ready For Electric Flying Cars. eVTOL concepts are multiplying, promising the future we were promised in the 1950s., Autoweek, Apr. 28, 2017
- Article: Lilium reveals new air taxi as it celebrates maiden flight, Vertical Magazine, May 16, 2019