LIFT’s Hexa Lifts Off
By Andrew Barber
Vertiflite Mar/Apr 2019
Austin, Texas-based LIFT Aircraft revealed itself on Dec. 11, 2018. The LIFT Hexa is an all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) single-passenger wingless multicopter aimed primarily at tourism and short distance travel. It completed its first manned test flight on Nov. 1, 2018.
The Hexa has a motor strut assembly resembling a web of six inward-pointing sectors with twelve outer and six inner electrically-powered propellers; this allows the aircraft to be controlled simply by varying individual motor speed. The vehicle can fly with up to six motors disabled but is also equipped with an autonomous ballistic parachute. Each motor has an underslung battery, which the company says makes for quick changeouts between flights and puts the risk of fire away from the passenger and under the propeller airflow.
The Hexa’s all-carbon fiber airframe is supported by four perimeter floats and a large central float under the open cockpit that allow it to make soft landings on water and the ground. The Hexa qualifies as a powered ultralight under FAA regulations, so it requires no pilot’s license to fly. To be considered an ultralight, an aircraft must have a maximum empty weight of 254 lb (115 kg), but an additional 30 lb (13.7 kg) is allowed for each float, and more weight is allowed for the 28 lb (12.7 kg) parachute system. It can carry a 250 lb (113 kg) passenger for up to 15 minutes while retaining 25% battery life. Hexa has a total empty weight of 432 lb (196 kg).
The Hexa is semi-autonomous and its stability is accomplished by flight control computers. After training in LIFT’s virtual reality simulators, the passenger can use the single three-axis joystick or can engage an auto-pilot mode using a small touchscreen. The triply-redundant flight computer system continuously calculates the energy required to return to home so — regardless of the pilot’s actions — the Hexa will automatically return and land while the battery still has a sufficient return charge. It can also automatically land in designated safe areas or be controlled remotely by LIFT-trained safety pilots.
LIFT plans to set up numerous locations where anyone will be able to rent the aircraft in “the world’s first experiential entertainment business based on an entirely new type of personal, electric aircraft.” The cost will be about $250 per flight. The company currently relies on input by interested customers to determine its first locations in scenic, uncongested areas near major cities, tourist destinations and entertainment hubs.
LIFT was founded by Matt Chasen, a serial entrepreneur, investor and adventure sports enthusiast. While getting his MBA at the University of Texas at Austin in 2003, Chasen founded uShip — the first and largest online marketplace for shipping which today has over $200M in annual gross sales.
About the Author
Andrew Barber is an aerospace and association management consultant providing services to the non-profit and aerospace communities in the areas of strategic planning, government relations and affairs, research, report writing and communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.