Recently, Lilium jet became the latest to announce their flying car $90 million funding round for “airplane as a service” businesses. Add to the giants like Tesla and Nvidia that are already working on this. The promise of the 5 seater all-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet is that it is 5 times faster than cars and with significantly less environmental impact. There are a number of other startups that are focused on the electric aircraft market, including Kitty Hawk and Zee.aero, both backed by Larry Page; and Vahana, backed by Airbus.
The Lilium VTOL jet is solely electric-powered which has left some aviation experts skeptical that the startup can reach its goal of speeds up to 300 kph and a distance of 300 km. However, the company claims that they have optimized the battery and the design (no tail). They have also made it 4 times less noisy than a helicopter so you can only hear it on takeoff and landing.
This all sounds great but if the ultimate vision is that you can own one as a luxury, where is everyone going to park them? They are not going to fit in the garage and probably require a hangar for protection and insulation. I assume you need to keep them at a certain temperature so that they don’t freeze when they hit the cold air. Is everyone going to have their own de-icing machine? We just invested in a new de-ice technology TBA — that could work. But on the parking side, it raises the question of a vision for a new type of community as we move into a Jetson-like world.
I just visited the Refuge Alpine Air Park in Wyoming and believe this could be the vision for how our communities will look! Built by aviation enthusiasts and only 45 minutes from Jackson Hole, it is a community of houses with their own hangars to house helicopters, planes and other aerial machines. so they are really “personal air machine garages”! Imagine that when you land there, you land on a street that is a runway and then taxi to your house. You pass people walking their dogs as you taxi by! Because of personal aviation, you have a community where there would have been none. Granted, this is real luxury in that it is in the middle of the mountains with spectacular views, but imagine if costs could come down and the concept could be applied everywhere. I am lucky to have visited the Refuge and caught that vision. I can’t wait to see the innovation that continues to come in these machines, how we house them, and how it impacts humanity.