Lilium - Flight Taxi - Air Taxi

In sight: e-flight taxis and long-haul drones without visual contact

Reiner Hertl
28.06.2019
10 pictures
4 minutes

There is always something new in the air – as shown by the founding of the joint venture Droniq and the flight taxi start-up Lilium. Drone control and positioning via SIM card and GPS, point-to-point electric air taxis: it’s all about safety and new things up in the sky.

Dreams of the future are becoming true – Droniq develops security system

A joint system between DFS air navigation services and mobile networks will enable commercial drones to be sent over long distances without the remote pilots having to be in line of sight. Droniq, a company founded by Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Flugsicherung (German Air Navigation Services) wants to be able to control delivery drones that go en route for its customers.

Equipped with a special modem (hook-on-device) and a mobile phone SIM card, LTE transponder and GPS system, the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are located in real time via the mobile phone network and airspace surveillance. With this new technology, the deployment of drones over longer distances would be safe. Air traffic controllers and pilots can use the control system to monitor and coordinate aircrafts from a distance. This prevents any conflicts with manned air traffic as it is possible to observe the overall air traffic situation.

“Our technology will finally make it possible to exploit the full potential of commercially used drones,” says Tim Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom. Until now, line-of-sight contact between pilot and copter has been mandatory. “Droniq offers entry the commercial operation of the unmanned aerial vehicles market,” announced Professor Klaus-Dieter Scheuerle, CEO of Deutsche Flugsicherung. The objective is to integrate drones into the airspace on a sustainable basis via the UTM, unmanned aircraft traffic management System. 

The mobile communications company Vodafone is also working on a similar platform, developing a recognition system in cooperation with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The UASs, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems, are also located here on a mobile network basis. This concept is in alignment with the new European regulations.

Target groups for the providers of long-haul drone flights are commerce and industry, which want to investigate power lines, wind turbines or tracks, for example, and would therefore no longer be dependent on the more expensive use of helicopters. These include delivery services and logistic companies, as well as police, security and rescue services which can make up time each mission with a “drone’s eye view” – an informative preview.

In a few year’s time, air taxis could also make use of the Droniq technology to control and guide the vehicles.

Air taxis in particular have a whirling effect on the air. We are keeping an eye on this particularly dynamic segment, and now jet onwards to a highlight in the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen:

On-demand air taxi – Lilium flight mobility service with a 5-seater jet in 5 to 6 years’ time

These electrically powered flying taxis should take off in 2025, or perhaps even earlier – and be able to stay in the air for one hour at a speed of 300 km/h with a single battery charge. The Lilium Jet prototype with 36 electric motors and ducted propellers, a power output of 2,000 hp and a weight of only one and a half tons, has now mastered its vertical maiden flight in May – the next step will be to “fly manoeuvres”, says company founder Daniel Wiegand. The vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology will enable the vertical take-off aircraft to offer longer flights in order to meet the needs of local public transport. Emission-free and low-noise, without high operational costs, and with rotating electric motors: For take-off and landing, the flaps with the motors are upright, for forward flight horizontal.

In this video of the Lilium’s maiden flight you can be up in the air again with us:

The aim is to connect from point to point – but several times faster than on the road or in traffic jams.

We dream of a world in which everyone can fly to any destination at any time.

Daniel Wiegand

The further tests will go into forward flight: In horizontal flight, the wings will provide lift, so that less than 10 percent of the peak power would be required. All in all, “taxi-like prices” could make this mobility offer with flight experience affordable for everyone. 

After all, the business fields such as the connection of peripheries or airports o downtown are very exciting, and many companies are leading the way: As reported, Airbus and Boeing, Bell and Volocopter, Daimler and Audi are also working on air taxis. BMW-Designworks has already developed a hydrogen-powered flying taxi with the US company Alaka’i Technologies:

The first flying taxi with a fuel cell

The “Skai” passenger drone, with a range of approximately 650 kilometres, is said to be more enduring than an electric flight taxi with heavy batteries. With such a capacity, it can not only seat five passengers, but will also stay airborne for up to four hours with its six-rotor hexacopter. In terms of emissions, the air taxi is environmentally and climate-friendly, and its radius of action is large. This taxi is being tested in collaboration with the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Even quieter and even longer-range: the hybrid-electric “Silent Air Taxi”. This futuristic small aircraft was unveiled in Aachen/Germany in June. This WingMag live report provides an insight into the event. Cruising speed 300 km/h, range 1,000 km.

Focus on safety

Notwithstanding all the innovations brought by manned and unmanned passenger and cargo drones: For the safety of all those involved in aviation and the civilian population, the respective regulatory requirements must – nationwide and throughout Europe – be met first and foremost prior to any approval. For example, the EU has issued new regulations which, together with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), standardize the rules for the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles throughout the EU. With this regulation, drones of certain classes can also be identified from a distance according to the safety standards.

Pictures © Lilium

by Reiner Hertl

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