European venture firm Atomico, a London-based venture capital firm created by Skype co-founder and former CEO Niklas Zennström, has invested €10 million ($10.7 million) in Lilium Aviation – an electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) plane maker working on a lightweight commuter jet.
“[Atomico’s] support will enable us to continue developing the Lilium Jet, through flight testing beginning in early 2017, towards commercial production,” Lilium Aviation wrote in a blog post. “At the same time, we will also be expanding our existing staff of specialists and product engineers.”
According to the ESA Business Incubation Center, another one of Lilium’s backers, “Lilium has a highly diversified team of experts in fields ranging from aerodynamics, flight control, and CFRP structures to electric propulsion and product design.”
According to Lilium Aviation, the company has constructed seven small-scale models of its Lilium Jet in less than two years. All of them have flown successfully, but Lilium says its three most important models are the Hexa, the Dragon and the Falcon. The Falcon has is half the size of the final Lilium Jet, is made out of carbon fiber composites, has 36 engines and an on-board computer, which Lilium uses to analyze the flight data and test different flight modulations continuously.
The Dragon is entirely 3-D printed, including its fans, which Lilium makes it quick to rebuild. It is a 1:5 scale model of the ultimate Lilium Jet, and the first prototype to demonstrate a “seamless transition flights from hover to cruise mode and back using the final design concept of the Lilium Jet.”
The final jet will be a two-seat aircraft that can to fly up to an altitude of about 9,800 feet, reach a cruising speed of 160 – 190 mph, with an estimated range of 190 miles. It will run on 320 kW of power.