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TECHNOLOGY In 1926,
TECHNOLOGY In 1926, Henry Ford built a tiny single-seater aircraft, shorter than a Jaguar F-Pace, which was to be the Model T of the skies. The Flivver never made it past the prototype stage, but its essence – personal transportation that’s compact, easy to fly and capable of landing in small spaces – has remained an attractive, if elusive, goal. Now, nearly a century later, that essence has been distilled into a new generation of Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. And this time around they really are set to change the way we travel, by eliminating congested hub airports. Seating three to five people during scheduled flights or as an on-demand taxi, they’ll deliver you to city-centre locations (such as your office), drastically cutting journey times – for instance, the 55 minutes from JFK Airport to Manhattan to just five minutes. The commercial potential is significant enough to have convinced aerospace giants such as Boeing and Bell to invest in developing VTOL craft, and for Uber to get involved. But it’s with the myriad startups that you could argue the true spirit of this new industry lies. Lilium is one of those startups. Well provisioned (it raised £90m in its last funding round) and with an aircraft that has successfully flown, Lilium is one of the industry’s more plausible players. Its jet uses 36 electric jet engines on tilting wings, pointing down for take-off and reverting to a conventional horizontal arrangement up in the air. This takes advantage of the efficiency of wings – once airborne, they require little thrust to maintain lift. And that extends range. Perfecting the technology that delivers ranges viable for commercial flights is the holy grail. Bell’s developing a hybrid Left: Ready for the Uber of the skies? Below: Lilium’s founding team and prototype aircraft. Previous page: an artist’s impression of a rooftop port for a Lilium fleet powertrain, but Lilium is concentrating on pure electric, says the company’s spokesperson Oliver Walker Jones. “We’re working on battery technology ourselves and we’re confident we can do it,” he says. “The challenge for batteries is weight, much like it is in an electric car. But we’re committed to electric power.” Lilium is targeting a 2025 deadline for its first commercial flight. IMAGES COURTESY: LILIUM; VERTICAL AEROSPACE 54 THEJAGUAR
Vertical Aerospace is aiming to make air travel ‘personal, on-demand and carbon-free’ XXXXXXXXXX X X X X X X X X X X You might wonder if an aerospace firm the size of Bell (84 years in business, 9,000 employees) hasn’t done it yet, how will Lilium (four years and 200 people), in just six years? The answer, says Walker Jones, is just that – its size. “We can move fast. We have dynamism.” These are qualities it shares with Vertical Aerospace, the only British firm to have built and tested a full-size eVTOL aircraft. Vertical is even smaller, with 35 employees, but, as the company’s Verity Richardson puts it, “We’re more agile than the big companies. Their ingrained way of working slows them down.” Of course, more conventional technology has its backers, too; US startup Transcend Aero’s Vy400 craft uses a conventional turboprop. Transcend’s Greg Bruell reckons this will get it to market before its electric rivals, in 2023, offering reliability, greater range and a top speed of 405mph. Initially, Lilium and Vertical see their craft used as taxis for short journeys, with the added potential for carrying cargo. Transcend, on the other hand, is targeting longer journeys on scheduled flights, such as Manhattan to Boston in 36 minutes and for a fare of 3 (a journey that would take 90 minutes by helicopter, and cost around 00). Bruell reckons longer routes could relieve pressure on overcrowded airports, providing a faster, cheaper service “ TODAY‘S AIRPORTS ARE OFTEN BEYOND CAPACITY. WE‘RE THE RELIEF VALVE” that could take people from office to office: “Today’s airports are often beyond capacity – even taxiing out to the runway can delay journey times. We’re the relief valve.” Landing ports would need to be built. Walker Jones says existing helipads will work, and that new ports could be added atop existing buildings. With the ability to drop straight down, and do it much more quietly than a helicopter, this direct-to-destination concept is at the heart of the electric VTOL craft’s proposition. The vision of a city peppered with VTOL ports raises questions of safety and noise. Richard Matthews, aviation leader at infrastructure and transport expert Arup, points out that even electric-driven rotors are not silent (think of the noise a drone makes) and that VTOL craft displace a lot of air when taking off, which makes noise. But these craft may have an advantage when it comes to the regulations that govern safety in urban airspace. “Having multiple motors and rotors could make them safer than a helicopter,” says Matthews. “And that could lead to a relaxing of regulations.” That means they could fly where helicopters can’t, to cover a much greater area. This is still a nascent trend, looking for more powerful batteries and infrastructure development. But, for the first time since Henry Ford’s dream of the Flivver, personal air travel is set to become truly convenient.
JAGUAR MAGAZINE celebrates creativity in all its forms, with exclusive features that inspire sensory excitement, from seductive design to cutting-edge technology.
The latest issue features a range of inspiring people: from Luke Jennings, creator of Villanelle, one of the most interesting television characters in recent times, to Marcus Du Sautoy, who ponders whether artificial intelligence is on the brink of becoming creative. Out on the road, we visit the US to explore the foodie heaven of Portland in a Jaguar I-PACE, take a Jaguar XE to the south of France to get a photographer’s viewpoint of the charming town of Arles, and much more.