Pre-orders open for $1m flying car; flying taxi undergoes successful test flights

Pre-orders have opened for a $1m (£780,000) flying car set to launch in 2020 while German company Lilium has carried out a series of successful test flights for a flying taxi.

The Slovakian firm AeroMobil said its teardrop-shaped AeroMobil Flying Car, displayed at the Top Marques Monaco event, could switch to flight mode in less than three minutes. The wings fold away for driving on roads and swing out for flying.

The company, one of several developing such flying vehicles, aims to make up to 500 units of its first commercially available edition, priced at €1.2m to €1.5m (£1m to £1.25m).

To fly, the car would need an airfield or another approved place to take off, while owners would require driving and pilot licences, said AeroMobil chief communications officer Stefan Vadocz. 

AeroMobil said deliveries to customers of the flying car, which Vadocz said would comply with air and road regulations, was expected to start by 2020.

Meanwhile the German Lilium is developing a five-seat ‘flying taxi’ (pictured below) after successful test flights over Germany of a smaller version of the electric jet.

The Munich-based company, backed by investors who include Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, said the planned five-seater jet, which will be capable of vertical take-off and landing, could be used for urban air taxi and ride-sharing services.

In flight tests, a two-seat prototype executed manoeuvres that included a mid-air transition from hover mode - like a drone - to wing-borne flight - like a conventional aircraft, Lilium said.

Potential competitors to Lilium Jet include much bigger players such as Airbus, the maker of commercial airliners and helicopters, which aims to test a prototype self-piloted, single-seat ‘flying car later in 2017.

But makers of flying cars still face hurdles, including convincing regulators and the public that their products can be used safely. Governments are still grappling with regulations for drones and driverless cars.

Lilium said its jet, with a range of 300km and cruising speed of 300km/h, is the only electric aircraft capable of both vertical take-off and jet-powered flight.

“We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point,” Lilium co-founder and chief executive Daniel Wiegand said in a statement.

The jet, whose energy consumption per kilometre is comparable to an electric car, could offer passenger flights at prices comparable to normal taxis but with speeds five times faster, the company said.

Lilium, founded in 2014 by four graduates from the Technical University of Munich, is unusual on the German start-up scene, which is dominated by ecommerce firms largely based in Berlin and self-financed engineering firms dotted around the country.

It raised €10.6m in 2016 from Zennstrom-led venture firm Atomico Partners and e42, the investment arm of entrepreneur Frank Thelen, a juror on the German of investment reality TV show ‘Lion’s Den’.

Other potential rivals include crowd-funded eVolo, a firm based near Mannheim that has said it expects to receive special regulatory approval for its two-seat ‘multicopter with 18 rotors to be used as flying taxis in pilot projects by 2018.

Google, Tesla and Uber have also reportedly shown interest in the new technology.

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