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Lilium highlights eVTOL design changes, introduces short running landing capability

With plans to build its first conforming eVTOL aircraft next year, German startup Lilium highlighted to shareholders changes to its aircraft design, including a new short running landing capability.

Lilium
With plans to build its first conforming eVTOL aircraft next year, German startup Lilium highlighted to shareholders changes to its aircraft design, including a new short running landing capability. Lilium Image

Alastair McIntosh, chief technology officer at Lilium, said the company’s decision to introduce a traditional landing gear to its Lilium Jet eVTOL aircraft “doesn’t deviate very far from where we previously were. It just gives us more flexibility, and we do get access to more energy within the cell as a direct result of that.”

In response to shareholders’ questions during the company’s first quarter earnings call last week, executives said the new capability is something that’s “always been a potential” for the Lilium Jet design. Lilium engineers are still working out those design details, but McIntosh told shareholders the aircraft would likely need around 150 meters (500 feet) to perform such a landing.

Executives said the feature is important for its aircraft certification program, increasing its battery reserve range and giving the aircraft the ability to respond to real-world scenarios by diverting to an alternate landing site and performing a short running landing if needed.

The company confirmed in late May that it would be using Zenlabs’ battery technology to power its aircraft, claiming that the current technology will allow its eVTOL to achieve a projected operational range of around 175 kilometers (108 miles), assuming a maximum take-off weight and a short 45-second vertical landing.

McIntosh said the lower power demand of a short running landing means the aircraft could be able to tap into more battery cell energy, extending its operational range.

The additional landing option is just one of a number of changes the German startup introduced to its Lilium Jet aircraft following its preliminary design review (PDR).

Lilium has also reduced the number of electric ducted fans on its eVTOL from 36 to 30 by increasing the diameter of each motor, as well as reduced the overall fuselage shape to allow for a cabin that can be reconfigured to a premium four-passenger club cabin, six-passenger shuttle configuration, or a cargo cabin.

Under the leadership of long-time Airbus executive Klaus Roewe, expected to take up his post as CEO of Lilium in August, the company said it is on the path to building its first conforming aircraft in 2023, and has already expanded its supplier list.

Honeywell, Denso and Aernnova are expected to develop Lilium’s electric motors and propulsion mounting system, respectively, and Livent and Customcells are to supply the lithium products and produce Lilium’s battery cells using Zenlabs’ technology.

As Lilium’s supplier list grows, executives expect the company’s total expenditure to reach around $265 million this year. As of March 31, its liquidity sat at $331 million.

In a letter to shareholders, Lilium said it has established an equity line of credit (ELOC) with Tumim Stone Capital this month to help raise funds, permitting Lilium to sell an aggregate amount of up to $75 million in new Lilium Class A Ordinary shares to Tumim.

“The ELOC allows us to leverage the liquidity in our stock while giving us flexibility around issuance timing and minimize dilution,” said Geoffrey Richardson, chief financial officer of Lilium.

With a conforming aircraft in hand next year, Lilium is targeting type certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2025, followed by concurrent validation with U.S. and Brazilian authorities.

During the earnings call, there appeared to be little concern from executives about receiving concurrent validation from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In fact, McIntosh called the FAA’s recent decision to change how it certifies winged eVTOL aircraft “a really good thing. For some, it may be a little painful at this point, but actually, it will be genuinely good for the industry.”

He said the FAA’s new approach is “akin to what EASA has already been doing. If it goes that way, I would welcome it. I would also say that from what we are seeing so far, at least from EASA and the dialogue that we’ve been having with the FAA, we feel well positioned should that be the outcome.”

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6 Comments

  1. The vehicle made the trade for higher speed and in doing so, diminished its hover and noise performance. The team seems to be adjusting their range by using weight reductions and emergency landing options. These changes are prudent and expected. Unfortunately, the elephant in the room is the certification process, which still seems to present the highest risk to all EVTOL aircraft in development. The Sport Aviation community most recently went through a similar development process as documents evolved towards a complete set of requirements but with a much simpler aircraft concept. Small companies with limited certification budgets may not survive this process which would be a tragic way to kill this innovative new industry.

  2. In my view, this is conceptually mistaken. The advantage of this aircraft is its point-to-point capability that is entirely independent of runways and dedicated airports. Vertical, as in VTOL, means anywhere, without airport infrastructure. Certification that forces the craft into the airport and runways model violates its design and purpose entirely. Any VTOL, including standard existing helicopters, can stretch its landing to align with a runway; but that is not its intended operation nor is it in any way necessary. It should not have any bearing on certification of a true VTOL. If there is concern about the battery capacity and duration of flight, then focus on how much of that capacity must be held in reserve, relative to altitude and time required to descend safely, and methods of measuring that capacity reliably.

    1. I think what is interesting is that when vertiports are shown they always look like mini airports. Which then begs the question… why do point to point? If a person has to drive to a mini-airport the notion of taking off from a helipad area and landing to a helipad area is gone. In other words, I agree with you. And I think Lilium probably is looking at the space they are planning for and thinking… if I can do STOL and save ~25% of my energy budget, reduce the noise, and not burn out the battery then why not? In other words, if you have the space why not use it?

  3. It seems that the Short Running Landing Capability is in addition to the Vertical Take Off and Landing capability. Therefore it is a bonus feature or option that will provide additional landing options, optional flight time, range and safety.

    As a pilot, the more landing options the better…

  4. The image with landing gear shows a nose wheel.

    Conventional landing gear is tail wheel.

  5. Refer my earlier comments about testing the Lilium’s cruise performance,stability etc by using ROLLING (CTOL) take off and saving a lot of time in the hover and particularly the Transition testing phase (always the most problematic part of VTOL ops ) -the optimistic cruise efficiency being claimed (and crazily at 10 000ft !) could thus be established early on or disproven . The basic configuration of the wing is extremely draggy compared to a clean wing with one typical cruise propeller (and stowed VTO gear -the best option ) Folding large diameter lift props better.

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