The U.S. Air Force has awarded Austin, Texas-based Lift Aircraft a new contract to continue developing its unique, single-seat, ultralight, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft called Hexa.
Hexa has been performing crewed test flights of full-sized prototypes since 2018 and the aircraft has been under Air Force contract since 2020. After Hexa receives FAA approval, Lift Aircraft says its 18-proprotor, amphibious eVTOL won’t require a pilot’s certificate to fly, under the FAA’s powered ultralight classification in FAR Part 103.
Lift Aircraft says it intends to develop Hexa for both civil and military applications, including “emergency first response, personnel transport, base logistics, and search-and-rescue missions.”
Hexa has already received initial military airworthiness approval under Agility Prime.
Initial testing under the new contract will take place at Eglin Air Force Base near Destin, Florida, alongside the 96th Test Wing and with the support of Air Force eVTOL initiative, Agility Prime.
Several other U.S. eVTOL developers have Agility Prime military contracts, including Joby Aviation, Beta Technologies and Archer Aviation.
“We want it to be able to serve as a contract vehicle that accelerates Hexa towards fielding not just for the USAF, but the DOD (Department of Defense) and USG (U.S. government) in general,” said an April 7 statement from 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 and welcome growing the community even further in the future.”
About the Aircraft
Weighing just 432 pounds, Hexa includes an airframe made of lightweight, super-strong carbon fiber. The aircraft is designed with multiple safety considerations, including the ability to fly and land safely with up to six of its 18 battery-powered motors and proprotors disabled. It also comes with an “autonomous ballistic parachute” for a worse-case scenario.
Designed to land on ground or water, Hexa has four “perimeter floats” that provide “buoyancy and stability” plus a center float constructed of “energy absorbing foam for hard-landing protection.”
Lift Aircraft intends to provide pilot training for Hexa, according to the company’s website. The aircraft will include an autopilot computer, a seven-inch touchscreen for automated flight and a single, three-axis joystick for hands-on piloting.
Hexa “democratizes the experience of piloting an aircraft, making the joy and utility of personal, vertical flight accessible to all,” Lift Aircraft’s website says.