By Elan Head

An award-winning journalist, Elan is also a commercial helicopter pilot and an FAA Gold Seal flight instructor with helicopter and instrument ratings. Follow her on Twitter @elanhead

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Lilium resumes flight testing of eVTOL technology demonstrator

Lilium has resumed flight testing of its updated five-seat “Phoenix” technology demonstrator, the company confirmed during its Capital Markets Day presentation on Aug. 2.

Lilium Phoenix eVTOL demonstrator
Following an extensive period of ground testing, Lilium resumed flight testing with its updated five-seat technology demonstrator in recent weeks. Lilium Photo

The German eVTOL developer suspended flight testing early last year after its first five-seat prototype was destroyed in a fire during post-flight maintenance activities at its headquarters near Munich. An independent incident investigation determined that the fire, which occurred during the installation of battery modules, was most likely due to thermal runaway, according to Lilium’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Lilium said it has “carried various lessons forward by redesigning the individual battery modules and the energy system, as well as the assembly process” in its new technology demonstrator. The company noted that the energy system used in its uncrewed technology demonstrators is not the same system that will feature in its seven-seat production model, which is currently under development and is expected to enter ground testing by the end of 2022.

Because the Phoenix is “representative of the flight physics and technology” of the seven-seat Lilium Jet, its flight test data will be crucial to Lilium meeting its ambitious certification targets. The company, which has already agreed to a certification basis with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, aims to obtain a type certificate for the passenger-carrying Lilium Jet in 2024.

Lilium’s Capital Markets Day was held in support of the company’s plans to go public through a combination with the special purpose acquisition company Qell Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: QELL). Qell is now targeting a shareholder vote to approve the merger in early September.

Also as part of its Capital Markets Day, Lilium announced plans for a strategic alliance with Azul S.A. that could see the Brazilian airline purchase 220 eVTOL Lilium Jets for up to $1 billion. According to an updated SEC filing, Lilium and Azul have agreed to work exclusively with each other to establish an eVTOL transportation network in Brazil. Although the commercial terms of the alliance have yet to be finalized, Azul will likely receive warrants to purchase up to 8 million shares of Lilium’s holding company, the filing indicates.

In a video accompanying Lilium’s Capital Markets Day presentation, Azul founder David Neeleman — who also founded the airlines WestJet and JetBlue Airways, among others — admitted that he’s “petrified of helicopters” but understands the convenience that a helicopter can bring to someone’s life.

“By having an aircraft like Lilium has, with a fraction of the cost of a helicopter, with much more safety, we think we can expand this market,” Neeleman said. “We think the market can be 10, or 20, or 30 times bigger than it is today… or even more.”

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3 Comments

  1. Yeah, but what is Lilium’s certification budget? €400M, €500M ?, maybe much more, and that’s for a piloted aircraft. That’s the real elephant in the room.

  2. Even a sparrow would destroy these fans if ingested -sparrows come in dense flocks so that an encounter will result in ….-DEATH (there is no survivability post power/thrust loss which is also control loss since control is only thrust modulation) This is a pretty severe ‘downside’ to ‘incredible simplicity’ and much more likely than “one in a billion” Just running out of charge in flight will do the same; “range anxiety” doesn’t begin to cover this fear , Anyone who has ever been caught on top of cloud or needed an alternate will get this ‘scenario’ and consequences.

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