The last few years really seemed to have pushed us toward the future that many of us have always dreamed about - we have hoverboards, personal assistants that are robots, and drones. Now we are working toward a few others technological advancements that so many of us have hoped for.
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Lilium is a vertical take-off plane that can soar to 250 mph (400 km/h) and is starting to take shape at another company. While we don't have all of the details yet, we know that it has a 10,000-foot ceiling, 310-mile range (500 km), and helicopter-like takeoffs. The kicker? It all operates on battery power!
The product is still quite obviously in the planning stages, but the European Space Agency (ESA) and a team from the Technical University of Munich will have manned tests within the next year, according to their report.
The Lilium will fly like a regular plane (with wings) but will act like a helicopter during take offs and landings thanks to the swiveling of its ducted fan engines. The engines, controllers, and batteries are all redundant for safety. The plane only requires around 50x50 feet for take off. The inventors hope that they will be able to certify the Lilium as a light sport aircraft (LSA), meaning that the pilots will only need 20 hours or more to fly it in good weather.
To start, however, it will have to be on airfields and take off like a regular airplane before any of that can happen.
The hope is that eventually they will be approved for the vertical takeoffs that will be fully controlled by a computer instead of a pilot. It will have fly-by-wire joystick controls, panoramic windows, a retractable landing gear, touchscreen controls, and a recharging system similar to that of a car.
As an added bonus, the ducted engines make it quieter than helicopters.
There are still a lot of hoops that the ESA will have to jump through - it will be a time-consuming and expensive project.
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The inventors have already completed the project successfully for a half-scale prototype - but we will have to lie in wait for a while yet.