The US Air Force has awarded Austin, Texas-based Lift Aircraft a new contract to continue developing its unique, single-seat, ultralight, electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft called Hexa.
Hexa has been performing full-scale prototype crewed test flights since 2018, and the aircraft has been under contract with the Air Force since 2020. After Hexa received FAA approval, Lift Aircraft states that its 18-propeller amphibious eVTOL will not need a pilot’s certificate to fly, under the FAA’s powered ultralight classification in FAR Part 103.
Lift Aircraft said it intends to develop Hexa for both civil and military applications, including “emergency first response missions, 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, Fla., alongside the 96th Test Wing and with support from the Air Force’s eVTOL initiative, Agility Prime. .
Several other US 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 toward fielding not just for the USAF, but the DOD (Department of Defense) and USG (US Government) in general,” said a April 7 statement from Sterling Alley. , Head of Technology Transition and Head of Lift Program at Agility Prime. “We have a large number of interested stakeholders studying use cases for the aircraft and looking forward to the community growing even more in the future.”
About the plane
Weighing just 432 pounds, Hexa features a lightweight, ultra-strong carbon fiber airframe. 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 the worst case.
Designed to land on land or water, Hexa features four “peripheral floats” that provide “buoyancy and stability” plus a center float constructed of “energy-absorbing foam for protection against hard landings”.
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 everyone,” Lift Aircraft’s website says.