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Jet-powered flying taxi unveiled following first flight

[LONDON] The world's first all-electric vertical takeoff and landing passenger jet has been unveiled after completing its first flight.

German startup Lilium aims to have a fleet of the five-seat aircraft - which can operate with a pilot or in drone mode - flying in cities worldwide by 2025, providing a pay-per-ride service that will be emission-free, five times faster than a car and produce less noise than a motorbike.

The plane will have a 300km range, allowing it link New York and Boston. A short hop between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Manhattan will cost about US$70 per passenger, making it cheaper than a helicopter and competitive with top-end limousine services, chief commercial officer Remo Gerber said in an interview.

A full-scale, full-weight prototype took off from Lilium's base near Munich on April 4 and has begun flight tests to secure regulatory approval, the company said on Thursday.

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The craft is powered by 36 jet engines that swivel after takeoff to provide forward flight in the manner of a standard plane, using only 10 per cent of the energy of multi-rotor drones based on helicopter technology. That saving in turn allows it to fly for 10 times the distance, overcoming the range issues regarded as a major obstacle to electric-powered planes.