German startup successfully performs air taxi maiden flight

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BERLIN, May 16 (Xinhua) -- The German startup company Lilium successfully launched its air taxi, called Lilium Jet, into the air for the first time on the Oberpfaffenhofen airfield near the German city of Munich, the company announced on Thursday.

"Today we are taking another huge step towards making urban air mobility a reality," Daniel Wiegand, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of Lilium, commented on the maiden flight of the five-seater and fully electric air taxi.

The Lilium Jet is built to be able to take off and land vertically with its 36 electric turbines, which are installed in its wings.

According to the German startup, the air taxi can travel up to 300 kilometers per hour and can stay airborne for about an hour.

Prices for journeys with the air taxi should be on a "comparable" level with those of a taxi, Lilium stated. According to the German press agency (dpa), Wiegand also ruled out selling aircrafts to individuals or companies, since the aim was "that many citizens book flights with us".

"We are proud to have the support of a number of highly respected investors, including Tencent," a spokesperson from Lilium told Xinhua on Thursday and added that "we think the market for this type of travel is global."

Alongside Skype founder Niklas Zennstroem and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, the Chinese company Tencent is one of a number of large investors whom Lilium was able to convince of its air taxi concept.

In total, the German startup company has already raised more than 100 million euros (112.0 million U.S. dollars) in funds.

Lilium is facing strong competition in the segment of flight taxis since several large competitors are currently working on similar projects.

The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus had launched its City Airbus, a four-seater electrical powered flight taxi, the first time into the air at the beginning of May. The City Airbus is expected to fly 120 kilometers per hour and up to a total of 50 kilometers.

Airbus' U.S. competitor Boeing already held its first test flight with an autonomous air taxi in January.

The German start up Volocopter, which cooperates with one of Europe's largest airports in Frankfurt, already obtained a German traffic license for a two seater electric air taxi in 2016 and completed an autonomous flight test in Dubai in 2017.

After the maiden flight of the Lilium Jet on Thursday, Leandro Bigarella, head of flight testing at Lilium, emphasized that the company "will now continue with increasingly complex maneuvers as we look towards our next big goal of achieving transition flight, which is when the aircraft moves seamlessly from vertical to horizontal flight".

Lilium is expecting to be fully-operational in various cities around the world by 2025. Enditem

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