A Volocopter air taxi during a test flight in Singapore. Agence France-Presse
A prototype flying taxi has achieved speeds in excess of 100 km/h (62 mph), its German developer Lilium said on Tuesday, giving it confidence to expand production capacity ahead of a planned commercial launch in 2025.
Munich-based Lilium is one of a clutch of startups working on battery-powered aircraft that can take off vertically, potentially sparing future travellers the hassle of an airport check-in or delays due to road traffic.
Powered by 36 electric motors, the Lilium sports a fixed-wing design that its makers say will give it an efficiency and range advantage over more drone-like competitors, such as German rival Volocopter and Britain’s Vertical Aerospace.
Meanwhile, a Volocopter unmanned air taxi transport flew over Marina Bay during test flight with a safety pilot at the 26th Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress (ITSWC) in Singapore on Tuesday.
Volocopter has already conducted tests in Helsinki and Las Vegas but the Singapore trial is the company’s first in the heart of a city.
“We are taking tangible and concrete steps towards making our vision of regional air mobility a reality, and we are doing it on time,” said CEO Daniel Wiegand, who founded Lilium in 2015 with three friends from the Technical University of Munich.
The test flights come six months after the five-seater Lilium first staged a test “hover” at a Munich airfield. For now, Lilium is testing its air taxi by remote control, but it will bring in on-board pilots later to be certified airworthy.
Ultimately, its creators say, the Lilium will be able to complete a 300 km inter-city “hop” in an hour, offering an affordable and emissions-free alternative to travelling by commercial airline, road or rail.