You Don't Need A Pilot's License for this Flying Car

You Don't Need A Pilot's License for this Flying Car

Jeff Bezos checks out HEXA

The following post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga.


In 1962, the popular cartoon series “The Jetsons” envisaged a future where people traveled from home to work in flying cars. It seemed like just another futuristic idea embedded in a TV show back then.


Now, almost 6 decades later, what seemed like a fairy tale is becoming a reality. Dozens of companies are fine-tuning prototypes of their Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles for personal use.


Until recently, aviation has largely been driven by two key technologies: the jet engine and the helicopter. A new sector of the industry has a different take.


Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft present a unique opportunity for flight. Advancements in electric propulsion — motors, batteries, and electronic controllers — allow aviation to adopt renewable energy and achieve far greater vehicle simplicity. This paves the way for aircraft that can do the job of conventional aircraft and cars, but without the high financial and environmental cost, not to mention the time spent sitting in traffic.


Drone for People


For years, companies in this space have promised eVTOL aircraft that will soon be available to the public, but the technology largely lagged behind this promise. Current technology is allowing this concept to develop into what Morgan Stanley predicts will be a $1T market by 2040 and $9T by 2050. Austin, Texas-based startup, LIFT Aircraft Inc. (which is currently raising capital via a crowd-investing round), is at the forefront of the commercial launch of eVTOL aircraft, which use electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically.


The company has produced HEXA, an electric, vertical takeoff, and landing aircraft — a “drone for people” that anyone can pilot without a pilot’s license and just about an hour of training.


Transportation giants like Boeing Co. BA, Airbus SE EADSY, Embraer SA EMBR, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. 7267, Toyota Motor Corp. 7203, Hyundai Motor Co. (KRX: 005380) and NASA are partnering with startups like LIFT Aircraft to bring this technology to market today.


LIFT is reportedly ahead of the game thanks to recent advancements in technologies developed for small drones that have made it possible to design a safe, simple, and inexpensive multi-rotor drone capable of human flight.


In March 2019, HEXA caught the attention of Amazon Inc. AMZN founder Jeff Bezos, who couldn't resist the temptation of boarding and checking out LIFT’s ready-to-fly eVTOL aircraft. In October 2019, it was on display for Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's crown prince, who said he wanted to be one of the first to fly HEXA in Dubai.


HEXA: Flying Now

 

 

LIFT reportedly embarked on this journey in November 2017, and just 7 months after putting designs on paper, the company succeeded in flying a full-scale prototype. It achieved this by using massive 3D-printed molds and a team with a background in eVTOL technology.


LIFT is in the pre-commercial stage, where it is producing aircraft and conducting safety testing alongside the United States Air Force. While the company has not yet launched flights for customers, it claims to be launching pay-per-flight operations in 2022. Its beachhead strategy is to target markets that don’t require time-consuming aircraft certification or breakthroughs in battery technology for viability. The company is opening LIFT vertiport locations in ideal flight locations where they will provide training, pay-per-flight rentals, and ground and flight control support.


LIFT says it leverages distributed electric propulsion (DEP) technology, autonomous “fly-by-wire” flight control systems, and its patented design for HEXA. The company believes electric vertical flight is possible at ⅒ the cost of a helicopter with zero CO2 emissions.


LIFT reports that HEXA is designed with safety at its core and has gone through over 3 years of rigorous flight testing thus far. Apart from the ability to take off and land on water, HEXA can be remotely piloted, has triple-redundant flight computers, 18 independent rotors (can lose up to 6 and maintain flight), and an autonomous ballistic parachute (capable 40+ feet above the ground).


HEXA: Turning Heads


Unlike many players in the UAM industry, LIFT has transitioned from a proof-of-concept to a production-version flying aircraft. Because LIFT follows the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) ultralight guidelines, it has fewer restrictions and can fly without formal FAA certification. As an ultralight, HEXA requires no pilot’s license to fly away from congested areas and can be flown by first responders over cities, today.


Since HEXA’s first public display at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March 2019, many have become enamored with the impressive futuristic technology.


“The LIFT aircraft that we see today represents the emergence of incredible technology that has the potential to transform our lives, just as the Wright brothers did more than 117 years ago," Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said about HEXA.


The eVTOL aircraft was selected in April 2020 for the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime initiative and subsequently received $2.75 million in Air Force flight research, development, test, and evaluation contracts. Read more about HEXA's journey here.


LIFT believes that being one of the first to market presents strong advantages for both the company and investors, especially given its imminent commercial launch.

The preceding post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga. Although the piece is not and should not be construed as editorial content, the sponsored content team works to ensure that any and all information contained within is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge and research. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.

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