LIFT Aircraft Inc.
Austin, Texas, USA
Austin, Texas-based LIFT Aircraft started their project in Oct. 2017 in Budapest, revealed itself on Dec. 11, 2018 to the public through social media and news articles, and made its first public appearance at the SXSW (South By Southwest) 2019 Conference and Festivals held in March in Austin, Texas, USA. The LIFT HEXA (originally the "Hexa") is an all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) single-passenger wingless multicopter ultralight aimed primarily at tourism and short distance travel. It completed its first manned test flight in November 2018.
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.
The Hexa has a motor strut assembly resembling a web of six inward-pointing sectors with twelve outer and six inner electrically-powered propellers - for a total of 18 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.
The first test flight was on May 25, 2018. The first manned test flight was November 1, 2018 (Matt Chasen pilot). In an update in their Dec. 11, 2019 e-newsletter, LIFT said they were starting the production of their aircraft and it will have a lighter airframe, quieter electric motors, redesigned landing gear for greater stability, and have a fourth flight computer. The company is also planning a 25 city tour in the USA.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL aircraft
- Piloting: The passenger can manually fly the aircraft, use voice commands or it can be flown by remote control
- Capacity: 1 person
- Maximum cruise speed: 63 mph (55 knots)
- Maximum flying time: 15 minutes
- Propellers: 18
- Electric Motors: 18
- Power source: Batteries
- Payload weight: 250 lb (113 kg)
- Empty weight: 432 lb (196 kg)
- Fuselage: Carbon fiber
- Windows: Front wind screen with open sides
- Landing gear: 4 fixed landing pods which allow both land and water landings
- Safety Features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft. Has an autonomous ballistic parachute in case of a multiple rotor failure.
- LIFT Aircraft website
- LIFT Aircraft Facebook
- Video: LIFT Aircraft, LIFT Aircraft, Dec. 10, 2018
- Article: Lift Aircraft’s Hexa may be your first multirotor drone ride, TechCrunch, Dec. 11, 2018
- LIFT Press Release, Dec. 11, 2018
- Article: Lift unveils an ultralight aircraft made for fun flights, with Seattle on its radar screen, GeekWire, Dec. 11, 2018
- Article: LIFT Aircraft unveils new eVTOL aircraft, Aerospace Technology, Dec. 13, 2018
- Article: Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019, Digital Trends, Dec. 14, 2018
- Video: LIFT Aircraft Hexa Public Unveiling SXSW 2019, LIFT Aircraft, Mar. 21, 2019
- Video: CNBC: "WHAT"S HOT AT SXSW 2019", LIFT Aircraft, Mar. 28, 2019
- Video: CNBC: LIFT at SXSW, LIFT Aircraft, Mar. 28, 2019
- Article: LIFT’s Hexa Lifts Off, Vertiflite, Mar/Apr 2019
- Article: Maform wins award for eVTOL aircraft design, Budapest Business Journal, May 24, 2019
- Article: Lift Aircraft reports progress on eVTOL testing, with Austin launch (and Seattle stopover) in mind, GeekWire, Sept. 12, 2019
- Article: Wrapping Up 2020 - A message from LIFT CEO, Matt Chasen, LIFT, Dec. 29, 2020
- Article: LIFT Hexa Update, eVTOL News, Jan. 7, 2020