The promise of flying cars has been around for decades, and companies continues to show off their interpretations of what the public may expect in the future.

Lilium is one of many companies promising a world of efficient, speedy, and personal air transportation—and now the project has officially gone airborne.

The company's VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) jet made its inaugural test flight, which you can see in the accompanying video above.

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A VTOL is able to take off like a helicopter, eliminating the need for runways, but can also reach high speeds like a fixed-wing aircraft by rotating its thrust engines.

The Lilium all-electric jet can take off and land anywhere without the thermal reinforcement of the platform needed for vertical flight in conventional VTOL jets, we are told.

Lilium's VTOL jet can reach speeds of up to 186 mph and claims to offer an electric range of 180 miles or more.

Lilium VTOL

Lilium VTOL

The test flight was completed with a small prototype, but Lilium marked its success by revealing a design for a five-seat variant of the aircraft.

While several companies are looking at VTOLs, most employ a hybrid powertrain, while Lilium imagines zero emissions altogether, in part achieved by flying with a wing-born lift like a traditional airplane.

Lilium imagines its VTOLs will be used for on-demand taxi and ride-sharing services in the future.

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In its announcement, the company provided some context for how it says it might change the way of transportation.

For example, a trip from Manhattan to New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport is estimated to take only 5 minutes in Lilium's VTOL jet.

Those who have experienced New York City at its finest know its notorious traffic makes the trip much longer, often an hour or more from many parts of the island of Manhattan.

New York City skyline (by Flickr user AngMoKio)

New York City skyline (by Flickr user AngMoKio)

Lilium suggests that an all-electric short-range VTOL jet would eliminate much of the noise and heat blast associated with today's VTOL jet, potentially making it palatable to use within dense city limits.

The nearest approximation to such a service today is limited and expensive helicopter service from a pad on the Hudson River, widely loathed by users of the park it abuts for its noise, kerosene fumes, and rotor blasts.

Flying cars still have a long way to go, if indeed any of them ever make it into production.

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As an unknown wag once put it, you tend to end up with a lousy car and a lousy airplane.

Still, Lilium—which has been wrongly characterized as a flying car in some reports—may have proposed the closest approximation yet of an environmentally friendly short-haul aircraft that meets a specific market need.

[Hat tip: George F. Rice]


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