Imagine: A five-seat electric jet that can move passengers between Manhattan and JFK Airport in five minutes. That ambitious idea has caught the attention of China’s Tencent, the lead investor in a $90 million fundraising round announced by startup Lilium. The German firm, which successfully tested a prototype two-seater jet in April, said it will use the money to add to its 70 staff and develop a larger five-seat jet that can take off and land vertically. Founded by four students from the Technical University of Munich in 2015, Lilium has recently hired executives with experience at Airbus, Rolls Royce and Tesla.

The company’s next design project is an air taxi powered by 36 engines, it would carry five passengers up to 300km while producing zero emissions. “This is the next stage in our rapid evolution from an idea to the production of a commercially successful aircraft that will revolutionize the way we travel in and around the world’s cities,” CEO Daniel Wiegand said Tuesday. The company’s latest fund raising round included Obvious Ventures, which is backed by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, Liechtenstein’s LGT Group and Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström’s investment firm Atomico. Several firms, including Aeromobil and Terrafugia, are developing vehicles that look more like tiny planes than cars. Many rely on drone technology and vertical takeoff and landing, or VTOL, eliminating the need for a runway. Kitty Hawk, a startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, unveiled its prototype “ultralight” aircraft in April.

It is evident that the drone industry has entered an upward stage where all ideas and concepts are finding investors excited about their possibilities, but the ancient Darwinian process of natural selection will soon begin to differentiate those who adapt in the most intelligent way to the market and the needs of society.

 

 

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Comments

Kirsi Nicholson

Gabriel, thank you for posting! I have slightly edited the post cover to meet the image size standards. Now your post is in the Ralph Lauren Polo shirt contest! )) Also, your avatar now has a green ‘author badge’.

2 months ago
Lev Kuandykov

The post raises an important topic for research. While rapid transfer from JFK to Manhattan is already available by helicopter, most of the world’s busy urban areas are not yet covered with jam-free services. The drone taxi can be an option, especially if the passenger’s travel cost is low. One aspect of the technology being researched is the drone’s ability to handle disruptive events, like a strong side wind or other aircraft.

Drone operation is a subject of control-theory research. Most often, drone flight is managed through a set of rules (a rule-based operational regime). Each maneuver a drone undertakes is derived from a specific algorithm in the drone’s control system. Bear left, bear right, sharp left, 5-degree turn … the full list can include hundreds of items. How fast the drone responds to changing circumstances and the accuracy of the moves depends on a lot of analytics.

2 months ago