The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Lilium Sees Rising Costs as eVTOL Development Work Accelerates

Lilium is increasing expenditures as it steps up the preliminary design review for the six-passenger eVTOL aircraft for which it is seeking EASA type certification in 2024. Announcing its first quarterly results since completing a merger with Qell Acquisition and a New York Stock Exchange listing in September, the German company said that as it prepares its budget for 2022 it anticipates rising costs resulting from the Covid pandemic, supply chain pressures, and inflationary trends.

As of September 30, Lilium had $529 million cash available. It expects spending for the whole of 2021 to be on budget at $221 million. So far this year, the start-up has recruited more than 150 employees to reach a total workforce of 750.

CEO Daniel Wiegand told a November 16 analysts briefing that most of the new employees are being assigned to engineering, supply chain, and quality management roles. He said that recruitment will likely slow down next year when the headcount reaches around 950.

Financial analysts quizzed Lilium’s leadership team as to whether it can stick to its timeline for completing certification of the Lilium Jet by 2024. Chief operating officer Yves Yemsi, who has 16 years of program management experience at Airbus, explained that the preliminary design review, which started this month, will soon lead to detailed design work for the critical design review on which construction of a fully conforming prototype will be based. The company did not say when this prototype will be ready to make its first flight.

Lilium is now preparing to move flight testing of its fifth-generation Lilium Jet technology demonstrator from Germany to Spain, where better weather will allow it to expand the flight envelope. This will allow the engineering team to increase cruise speeds from the 46 mph achieved so far and also to demonstrate a complete transition from vertical to horizontal flight. In the 25 flights conducted to date, the demonstrator has flown a 30-degree bank angle and shown full maneuverability climbing and descending at 350 feet per minute.

Chief technology officer Alastair McIntosh, who joined the company after a 30-year career with aero engine maker Rolls-Royce, said that since its first flight in July the fifth-generation aircraft has proven to be very reliable for a demonstrator model at this stage of development. He said that in addition to fully exploring the aircraft’s GPS-based hover envelope at 12 mph ground speed, as well as conducting forward, rear, and lateral phases of flight, the test program has allowed the company to train seven test pilots and to give pilots from safety agency EASA a chance to understand the vehicle.

Lilium plans to step up engagement with its suppliers in 2022. It is already under contract with key program partners including Honeywell (flight controls and avionics), Aciturri (aerostructures), Toray (raw materials and components), and Palantir (data analytics).

Next year, German supplier Customcells is due to deliver the first batteries for the aircraft, and safety testing of cells and modules is already underway. Infrastructure and energy group ABB is working with Lilium on battery charging systems.

Chief financial officer Geoffrey Richardson told analysts that Lilium’s plans to launch commercial air services in 2024 were recently boosted when Palm Beach County in Florida approved plans for its ground infrastructure partner Ferrovial to build a vertiport for its exclusive use at Palm Beach County International Airport. Ferrovial also has announced plans to develop networks of 25 vertiports in the UK and 20 in Spain and is working with Lilium to define the most promising early routes for commercial services.

Richardson said that, for the most part, the company still intends to operate all flights itself, retaining full control of each network. However, he indicated that it is, in some locations, contemplating a revised business model in which services would be run by partner operators under some type of lease arrangements for the aircraft.