Skype’s Cofounder Is Taking to the Skies With Commuter Aircraft

January 7, 2017 5:00 am
Niklas Zennstrom, Skype cofounder and founding partner of Atomico, at the WSJDLive Global Technology Conference in Laguna Beach on Oct. 25, 2016. His new passion is commuter aircraft. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

The tech entrepreneur who co-founded Skype is looking to revolutionize lives far above the tops of people’s computer screens.

Niklas Zennström, best known as Skype’s cofounder and former CEO,  also founded Atomico, a company founded in 2006 to support startups around the globe. One of his pet projects is Germany’s Lilium Aviation, which has set its sights on elevating inter-city commuting to rival high-speed train travel.

The concept stems from the idea that airplanes have many advantages over helicopters, but whirlybirds do have one edge: they don’t require a landing strip to land or take off. That’s why it would be a remarkable breakthrough if planes were capable of vertical landings and take-offs. Indeed, it could be the key to commuter aircraft.

Enter Lilium. Founded in 2014, the company is focused on creating aircraft that use electric fans for propulsion. Developers insist these aircraft will be able to have the maneuverability of helicopters while being much quieter and still generating significant speed. (They are projected to be able to travel at 186 miles per hour.)

In addition to offering financial support, Zennström has supplied them an enthusiastic public endorsement. Quite simply, he asserts Lilium could fill an essential need for the present and future. He asserts that “transportation today is broken.” While acknowledging the potential of “electrical vehicles and autonomous vehicles,” he insists that “really to solve it in a big way we think you need to take to the skies.”

Lilium is aiming to test its first full-size prototype in 2017. To read more about the plan, click here. To learn more about Lilium Aviation and commuter aircraft, click here and watch the video below.

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