Updated: Apr 17, 2022
Photo Courtesy of Lilium
When it comes to vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, it appears nobody has a sleaker and better design than the German company Lilium.
The aircraft is sleak, sexy, and just plain awesome. Combine that with the fact the company has partner with some of aviation's heaviest hitting companies, and you can see why it has become an Internet sensation. But Lilium's vision is not limited to electric flight, they are set on changing transportation as we know it.
In CEO Daniel Wiegand's 2019 Web Summit talk (check it out here) he talks about changing not only the way that we fly but also the infrastructure that is necessary to make it happen. In short, infrastructure projects throughout the world are incredibly capital-intensive. In addition, they rarely stay under budget and often because widespread environmental damage. Resistance to these projects by residents who are forced from their homes because a significant delay and begs the question: is it worth it?
Take the high-speed rail project in California as a case in point. The Trump administration canceled the the requisite $929 million for funding for the project and 2019. Sometimes these numbers get so large is difficult to wrap your head around them, but the end result is a massive waste of capital.
High-speed rail might sell nice, but it doesn't start to pay off until you had decades of productive use. The last person to buy the top and Blackberry felt completely taken advantage of when compared against the iPhone.
An inherent problem in urban planning has to do with the fact that the planning, financing, construction, any use of the project spans not years but sometimes decades. In fact, for the California high-speed rail project the first leg of the construction was not planned to be complete until 2029.
Aviation has a distinct advantage in comparison to all other modes of transportation – its land-use is incredibly low. Aircraft of course require no roads, filling stations, traffic signal infrastructure, or maintenance along roadways or railways. When it comes to transportation oceanic shipping and aviation that the only forms of transportation that have little if any environmental damage along the route of travel the same certainly cannot be said for trucking and rail.
Wiegland makes the compelling argument that the cost of research and development, development of batteries, and the conversion of industrial space to what he calls "verti-ports" pales in comparison to the capital required for the construction of roadways and railways along with maintenance.
Photo Courtesy of Lilium