Exactly 112 years after the Wright Brothers delivered their first military aircraft, top Air Force leaders gathered with their Texas National Guard hosts and AFWERX personnel to watch the first Agility Prime ORB flight demonstration.
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass came together to witness the advances in electric vertical takeoff and landing flight (eVTOL) at Camp Mabry, Aug. 20.
The demonstration was presented by LIFT Aircraft, a Texas-based Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract recipient, as one of the first companies of its size to join the Agility Prime “Air Race to Certification.” LIFT’s Hexa is a short distance single-seater eVTOL designed to work much like shared scooter systems in urban areas do today. Users will be able to fly Hexa between landing ports in urban areas, guided by instructions from a mobile app. Hexa is designed to take off and land autonomously, making the flight experience seamless. LIFT plans on initially launching in 25 U.S citizens, and is already taking pre-sale reservations.
The event was the first time the service had witnessed a manned eVTOL aircraft take flight under its Agility Prime program, it said on 21 August. Agility Prime is a non-traditional program seeking to accelerate the commercial market for advanced air mobility vehicles. The USAF’s initiative presents an opportunity to exchange government resources in for knowledge transfer, aerial demonstration flights, and potential buyouts of various aerial mobility companies that elect to participate.
“Agility Prime is a program with a vision of world impact,” Barrett said during the program’s launch in April 2020. “The thought of an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle — a flying car — might seem straight out of a Hollywood movie, but by partnering today with stakeholders across industries and agencies, we can set up the United States for this aerospace phenomenon.”
“We now have over fifteen of the leading aircraft manufacturers in the world applying to partner with Agility Prime, with many of them already on contract,” said Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director and Agility Prime lead. “This flight today marks the first of many demonstrations and near term flight tests designed to reduce the technical risk and prepare for Agility Prime fielding in 2023.”
Why it’s important:
The Agility Prime program is the flagship eVTOL program for the USAF, as an increasing number of military organizations across the world become more and more interested in applications of aerial mobility technology as supplemental (and eventually in replacement of) current mobility offerings for both manned and unmanned missions.
In addition to the USAF, the US Army is examining eVTOL aircraft as a means to resupply troops, as well as provide combat search and rescue. The autonomous flying ability of the aircraft would allow the services to keep human pilots out of danger on certain missions. USAF’s Agility Prime initiative, and the successful Lift HEXA flight demonstration, are providing excellent exposure for emerging aerial mobility technologies and manufacturers. Ultimately, this has a high potential for these new startup companies to secure new contracts across both the military and commercial sectors.
Source // USAF (AFWERX Public Affairs)