The European Space Agency is incubating a new kind of aircraft. Revealed today, the glossy, white, egg-like form of the craft resembles nothing so much as an airplane designed by Apple. The planned two-seater will be all-electric, built for personal use, and, thanks to pivoting engines, it can take off from helipads instead of runways.
Dubbed Lillium, the craft when built is expected to travel at around 250 mph, faster than most helicopters but well below the speeds of private jets. The whole plane should fit comfortably in an area 50 feet by 50 feet, or roughly the same area as a modest helipad. It will also take part in a modern, quieter revolution in aircraft design: planes designed with noise reduction in mind.
From the European Space Agency:
Entirely electric, the plane is much quieter during takeoff than helicopters thanks to its ducted fan engines. Its batteries, engines and controllers are redundant, making it a much safer design than conventional helicopters. The plane is classed as a Light Sport Aircraft for two occupants, with the pilot’s licence requiring 20 hours’ minimum training – almost like taking a driving licence.
It is intended for recreational flying during daylight, in good weather conditions and in uncongested airspace up to 3 km altitude.
“Our goal is to develop an aircraft for use in everyday life,” explains Daniel Wiegand, CEO and one of the company’s four founders.
“We are going for a plane that can take off and land vertically and does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport.
“To reduce noise and pollution, we are using electric engines so it can also be used close to urban areas."