U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Partnership Develops ‘Flying Car’
LIFT Aircraft, on a Phase II contract with the AF SBIR/STTR program, has developed HEXA, the “flying car”. HEXA was unveiled February 5th, 2021 at the Springfield-Beckely Municipal Airport in Ohio. It is the first production model delivered to the Air Force to begin airworthiness testing.
• All Electric Vertical Take Off & Landing (eVTOL) • No Pilot’s License Required • Made from Heat Treated Carbon Fiber & 3D Printed Titanium Parts • Max Speed 90 MPH • Max Altitude 1,200 Feet
The company has been awarded multiple contracts by the US Air Force to continue to develop, test, and certify HEXA, and they performed the first piloted eVTOL flight demonstration under the USAF’s Agility Prime program with Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, in attendance. They are partnering with the Center for Autonomous Air Mobility (University of Texas) on further developing HEXA.
Hexa fits into the FAA’s Powered Ultralight category, under which flights are limited to daylight hours, in uncontrolled airspace (Class G, which is generally up to 700 or 1,200 above ground level everywhere except near major airports), and not over congested areas. Airspace boundaries are programmed into Hexa’s flight controller and aircraft will not be able to enter controlled airspace.
According to the LIFT Aircraft blog, there were 15,000 people on the waiting list for the HEXA as of December 2020.
The Air Force Office of Small Business programs utilizes the Department of Defense (DoD) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs to harness the talents of our nation’s small technology companies. These two similar programs stimulate technological innovation and accelerate development and production of promising technologies that can help the Air Force accomplish its mission. SBIR and STTR provide over a billion dollars in seed capital each year for early-stage research and development (R&D) at small technology companies. They fund projects that serve a DoD need and also have commercial applications.
- SBIR focuses on small technology companies and individual entrepreneurs
- STTR funds cooperative R&D projects between small businesses and research institutions
- Both programs reach out to socially and economically disadvantaged firms
- Funding is awarded competitively, but the process is streamlined and user-friendly.