U.S. Air Force successfully tests the first Agility Prime ‘flying car’

The United States Air Force, in partnership with the startup Lift Aircraft, finally tested the first “flying car,” named Hexa. The demonstration was a part of Agility Prime, a partnership between private aerospace firms and the Air Force that’s meant to add flying cars to the military’s flying arsenal.

It was held in Austin, Texas, with the presence of Lift officials and executives, where the Hexa lifted off from the ground and hovered overhead.

With its 18 electric rotors, Hexa looks most like some kind of helicopter vehicle, and it is officially referred to as eVTOL, “electrical Vertical Take-Off and Landing“. The eVTOL has capacity for only one person. Constructed of carbon fiber, it falls into the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ultralight category and does not require a pilot’s license, which, of course, is controversial.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr., sits in a LIFT Aircraft Hexa aircraft during a visit to Camp Mabry, Texas.
Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr., sits in a LIFT Aircraft Hexa aircraft during a visit to Camp Mabry, Texas. Credit: U.S. Air Force

The 432-pound (196 kg) craft is controlled by a joystick and powered with a ‘triply redundant autopilot computer’ that makes it safer than maneuvering a small traditional plane. Hexa is approved to fly to heights of 700 feet (213 meters), or 1,200 feet (365 meters) in some locations, but not overpopulated areas.

Originally developed as part of the urban air mobility movement, the Hexa is one of the fifteen projects that applied to join the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program. The objective is the entry into service of the first device from 2023. The U.S. Air Force has previously stated that by 2030 they aim to have around 30 eVTOL aircraft in their fleet.

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.

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