LIFT Aircraft Co. announced on April 7th that it was recently awarded a Phase 3 contract through the United States Air Force’s Agility Prime Program 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 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract. Additionally, the HEXA single seat eVTOL has been transported inside of the C-130 Hercules cargo transport aircraft to prove out additional use cases and ability to deploy the eVTOL in a variety of environments.
The 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 per previous announcements from LIFT, may expand to other locations, and 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. This effort aims to accelerate and further develop HEXA for future public and military applications like emergency first response, personnel transport, base logistics, and search and rescue missions. The development effort will also help accelerate the testing required for LIFT’s planned rollout of commercial flight locations.
Agility Prime has taken a unique flexible approach to contracting with the newly awarded phase 3 SBIR for LIFT. The contract is designed to be as agile as possible – it allows not only the Air Force, but any governmental entity to contract for flight test activities with LIFT’s HEXA aircraft on an as-needed basis.
“This contract was designed to enable flexible flight test as a service (Company Owned-Company Operated) of multiple HEXA aircraft for any government stakeholder, location and desired experiment. 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 and USG in general. 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.” said the Technology Transition Lead and LIFT Program Manager at Agility Prime, Sterling Alley.
“LIFT’s Phase III SBIR contract award is a meaningful vote of confidence from the US Air Force. It means the Air Force has determined LIFT’s previous development and testing contracts were successful. This is an important step towards scaling access to LIFT’s HEXA eVTOL aircraft throughout the DoD and Federal Government at large,” noted Eric Horan, former US Navy government contracting officer and founding partner of Decisive Point, a venture capital firm that invests in dual-use technology startups and has invested in LIFT.
Why it’s important: The recent extension and progression of LIFT’s work with the USAF will enable for future flight test progress and design of their eVTOL aircraft and will leverage the USAF’s experience in flight testing along with the resources of expertise in unique operational scenarios that can help to further develop and expand the envelope of the HEXA aircraft.