• Lift Aircraft has been awarded US Air Force Phase 3 SBIR contract to accelerate and further develop the OEM’s Hexa. 
  • The new Lift contract is a parallel development effort with the Air Force to rapidly mature its eVTOL technology base.   

Another attention-getting development in the US Air Force’s efforts to fast-track its electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) activities occurred when the Agility Prime Program awarded Lift Aircraft a Phase 3 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to continue experimentation and flight test efforts around Hexa, Lift’s all-electric, single-seat eVTOL aircraft.

Since 2020, Lift Aircraft has conducted flight testing with the support of the US Air Force under a Phase 2 SBIR contract. Lift reported that working with Air Force subject matter experts, the company “has achieved initial military airworthiness approval (military flight release), proven transportability by moving the aircraft inside a C-130 military cargo plane, and explored a multitude of potential use-cases alongside the Agility Prime Test Team.” 

This newly awarded Phase 3 contract will continue experimentation and use case development through a fast-paced, rigorous flight-testing program. The program, which will begin at Eglin AFB, Florida and may expand to other locations, will include efforts such as flight envelope expansion, acoustics testing, developmental testing of a modular cargo adaptation for the airframe alongside continuous operational testing with stakeholders.

The training readiness aspects of the Air Force’s parallel development of eVTOL prototypes has not been lost on Col. Don Haley, Air Education Training Command Detachment 62 commander, and AETC’s Agility Prime lead. The senior officer earlier told MS&T, “Each of the industry partners has different control schemes, different propulsion configurations, different concepts of operations, different corporate philosophies, and different goals. Rather than establishing a single set of standards for eVTOL training, we are focused on training standards for each capability that the Air Force transitions. We anticipate our first eVTOL training to occur in mid-2023.”