Texas-based LIFT Aircraft, the developers of the Hexa single-seat eVTOL aircraft, will be continuing its experimentation and flight test efforts with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) through the Agility Prime program.
With the support of the Air Force, LIFT Aircraft has been conducting flight tests under a Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract since 2020. The eVTOL developer announced on Thursday that it has now been awarded a Phase 3 contract through the program.
“We’re excited about continuing to explore and develop a unique capability to the military: an aircraft that offers air mobility at a cost point comparable with ground transportation, that in the future, with mere hours of training, allows any service member to become a pilot,” said Kevin Rustagi, LIFT’s director of business development, in a press release.
Through the Agility Prime program, LIFT has achieved initial military airworthiness approval, proven that its aircraft can be transported by moving it inside a C-130 military cargo plane, and explored potential public and military applications for its aircraft.
“LIFT is a great example of why Agility Prime exists — to further applications of eVTOL technology for both military and civilian use,” said Lt. Col. John Tekell, Air Force Agility Prime lead at AFWERX. Those applications include emergency first response, personnel transport, base logistics, and search and rescue missions.
With the Phase 3 contract in hand, LIFT can continue its flight test program with the Air Force, which the company said will start at the Eglin Air Force Base near Destin, Florida, but may expand to other sites.
The flight test campaign will include flight envelope expansion, acoustics testing, developmental testing of a modular cargo adaptation for the airframe, and continuous operational testing with stakeholders.
The USAF chose to make its Phase 3 contract with LIFT more flexible, allowing not only the Air Force but any governmental entity to contract for flight test activities with LIFT’s Hexa eVTOL aircraft on an as-needed basis.
“We want it to be able to serve as a contract vehicle that accelerates Hexa toward fielding not just for the USAF, but the [department of defense] and [U.S. government] in general,” said Sterling Alley, technology transition lead and LIFT program manager at Agility Prime. “We have a large number of interested stakeholders that are looking at use cases for the aircraft.”
LIFT is developing a personal multirotor eVTOL aircraft with 18 sets of propellers, motors, and batteries. It has a ballistic parachute that autonomously deploys in the event of an emergency, as well as five floats to safety land on water. The aircraft can also be controlled remotely.
Along with exploring potential military and public service applications, the eVTOL company plans to launch an experiential entertainment business offering the public a chance to rent the aircraft and experience flying.
The eVTOL weighs just 432 pounds (196 kilograms), which classifies it as a powered ultralight under U.S. Federal Aviation Administration regulations, meaning operators wouldn’t need a pilot’s license to fly it. The company said it plans to own and operate fleets of aircraft in scenic and uncongested sites near major metropolitan areas, as well as tourist destinations and entertainment hubs.