Uber has attracted dozens of speakers from the aviation industry, government and technology sectors to a large summit on “urban air transportation” in Dallas this week. The Uber Elevate Summit kicks off Tuesday and features speeches and panel discussions on the promise and problems of having fleets of electric VTOL aircraft buzzing around major cities.
While electric aircraft have gained press notice, they’ve lagged in market penetration, partly because buyers don’t fully understand the potential for electric aircraft. “I think it all comes down to people’s expectations. The most straightforward form of an electric airplane is one powered by batteries and batteries will always be a factor on the airplane, which is hindering endurance and performance, “ says Tine Tomažic, a developmental engineer for the Slovenian Pipistrel Aircraft. Pipistrel is a leading developer of light, efficient aircraft and has two electric models in its line. Tomažic presented at the Sustainable Aviation Symposium this week in Redwood City, California, and we spoke with him for this recorded podcast.
Lilium Aviation, of Munich, says it has flown a prototype of its all-electric VTOL tilt-engine aircraft that the company says will fly 160 knots in horizontal thrust configuration with a range of 180 miles. A video provided by the company of the first flight shows the aircraft, with what looks like a spacious automotive-style cabin, autonomously taking off vertically, turning tightly and transitioning to aerodynamic flight before landing vertically.