Interview conducted by Stephanie Hagen, Head of Conferences and Digital Content at Autonomy
For many, the concept of a flying taxi seems way off into the future. How soon do you think we’ll start seeing VTOL jets in European cities’ skies?
It’s not way off into the future. That’s what’s so exciting about this industry – it’s potentially just around the corner. We’ve already flown our two-seat prototype – take a look on YouTube. The next stage is the full-size, five-seat jet, and then we move to production and operation. It’s going to happen sooner than everyone thinks. It’s time to get very excited.
How would the Lilium jet change the daily life of an urban commuter?
First and foremost it’s the speed. Journeys from one side of a city to another will take just minutes – less time than it takes me to drink a cup of coffee. Difficult and congested ground-based journeys from the city outskirts to the city centre will be a thing of the past. And all thanks to our quiet, zero-emissions VTOL aircraft. Perhaps the best example is a journey to out of town airports – some of the most congested and challenging routes in urban transport today in cities around the world. 1 hour in the back of a cab will become 10 minutes in a Lilium Jet….
With the Olympics coming to Paris in 6 years, the city is looking for clean and innovative transportation solutions, how would you envision the Lilium Jet playing a role in such an event?
Well first of all this is a tremendously exciting time for Paris. I was working in London during the Olympics there and the energy and passion that the Games bring to a city is quite remarkable. The Lilium Jet doesn’t produce any emissions – it has 36 electric jet engines. By moving to the skies, not only are you cutting emissions, you’re cutting congestion on the ground, something that is one of the biggest challenges for a city hosting the Olympics. Lilium is absolutely part of a cleaner, greener, more innovative approach to transport and we will be keen to explore with Paris how we could support their Olympics.
As cities are turning more and more towards encouraging multimodal transportation solutions, how might air taxis fit into this system?
This is a great question. We believe air taxis will fit into a ‘sweet spot’ into the transport ecosystem of distances between 25km and 75km. Of course there will still be long haul flight and long distance trains, and of course there will still be buses (hopefully electric ones very soon!) to travel from district to district. And of course we all want to see more people cycling and walking, as it all plays a role in city health – cleaner and greener streets. So theoretically we will become part of a truly transformative, multimodal system: cycle to your Lilium Jet, fly to the train that will go from Paris to Marseille, before another Lilium Jet takes you right to the hotel. The technology exists to make that happen – we just need the will now!
Since innovation and legislation often have a complex relationship, what are the regulation hurdles that you need to overcome?
The premise is correct – innovation and legislation can be complex partners, but we don’t see this as a particular challenge for Lilium. Generally speaking the regulations don’t have to change – but we will have to work closely with cities if local communities are to get the very best out of the Lilium service.
What are the next steps for Lilium?
Well we are building the full scale prototype right now. We will then have our first manned flight and secure the relevant European aviation certification. And then – to launch! So watch this space….