LIFT Trains US Air Force to Operate HEXA eVTOL Aircraft
by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby
On November 16th, the Lift HEXA electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft lifted off at Duke Field for its flight piloted by Airmen, who remotely controlled the aircraft in a series of take offs, flights and landings.
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The flight was conducted as an early step in establishing a training program to incorporate Airmen into the aircraft’s flight operations, both to validate the HEXA’s training program through operation within a controlled test environment, and to serve as a proof of concept for the development of responsive training for government operators on uncrewed EVTOL aircraft.
“Successfully completing this training is a huge milestone and confidence boost to allow us to meet this challenge,” said Maj. Riley Livermore, 413th FLTS Futures Flight commander. “By helping these companies reach their commercial goals, we can learn from this technology and transition it for possible military use.”
Each of the three participating Airmen, an officer and a senior NCO from the 413th Flight Test Squadron and a senior NCO from Air Education and Training Command’s Detachment 62, possess experience with rotary wing aircraft.
“Our team’s prior rotary wing experience gave us a framework of reference to work from regarding aerodynamics that apply to vertical takeoff and lift aircraft, crew resource management, and general flight operations at a military airfield,” said Maj. Victoria Snow, a 413th FLTS helicopter pilot who participated in the HEXA training. “Even though the technology is vastly different, understanding the mechanics of helicopter flying translates well to operating the HEXA.”
Following classroom and simulator training, the Airmen got behind the controls of the HEXA aircraft during a two-week familiarization period. Operation requires a two-person team, with one person controlling the aircraft’s movement and the other monitoring systems, batteries, and other variables.
“My first flight experience was both rewarding and insightful,” said Snow, who has been observing and advising on HEXA test operations since March. “Getting the chance to fly the HEXA gave me a deeper understanding of the system’s inner workings and an understanding of how stable and responsive the HEXA aircraft is and of its possible future capabilities.”
Alongside AFWERX’s Agility Prime, the 413th FLTS manage the EVTOL test and experimentation at Duke Field, providing the Lift team with coordination, logistics and support. The goal of this Air Force and civilian partnership is to make use of the industry’s commercial investment and innovation to fulfill military use cases.
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Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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