Kitty Hawk is the latest eVTOL developer to join the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program, collaborating with the service to explore possible dual uses of its commercial Heaviside aircraft.
According to a Kitty Hawk spokesperson, the California-based company began working formally with AFWERX Agility Prime in March under in-kind Other Transaction for Prototype and Phase I Small Business Innovation Research contracts. AFWERX is the innovation arm of the Air Force, and Agility Prime is its effort to accelerate development of the eVTOL industry.
In May, the partners performed their first operational exercise, gathering in California to assess the ability of Kitty Hawk’s Heaviside eVTOL to perform medevac, personnel recovery, and logistics missions. Air Force and Marine Corps testers and operators evaluated different loading scenarios and observed Heaviside in remotely piloted and fully autonomous flight.
According to Col. Don Haley, Commander of Air Education and Training Command Detachment 62, who leads a team in developing training syllabi for eVTOL aircraft, the exercise “revealed common attributes that serve both urban air mobility and search-and-rescue operations: high reliability, responsive launch and recovery, minimal logistical footprint, accessibility for mobility-challenged, low acoustic signature, and high levels of autonomy.”
The single-seat, fully electric Heaviside is designed to reach speeds of up to 180 miles per hour (290 km/h) with a range of 100 miles (160 km) on a single charge. Kitty Hawk claims it can take off and land in a 30-by-30-foot (9-by-9-meter) space and is 100 times quieter than a helicopter.
In a press release, Lt. Col. Martin Salinas, the mission design team lead in the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, said the exercise in May generated “important data that will bolster the program going forward” and inform future developmental and fielding decisions.
“We are pleased to welcome a new partner and happy about the progress in this first Agility Prime exercise,” added AFWERX director Col. Nathan Diller. “This is just the beginning of many examples that the team will be exploring in the coming months to partner with commercial companies in a way that accelerates maturity for commercialization, while providing the Department of the Air Force with decision-quality data for future force design.”
In addition to its work with the Air Force, Kitty Hawk has partnered with Falck, the Denmark-based emergency services and healthcare company, to explore applications for Heaviside in emergency response.