Lift Aircraft planned to start customer demonstration flights in late 2019, followed by a 25-city U.S. tour in early 2020.
Lift Aircraft is developing the Hexa electric multicopter to be operated under the FAA's Powered Ultralight rules, primarily for leisure flying. These rules limit empty weight for the aircraft to 254 pounds. Hexa has a maximum takeoff weight of 423 pounds. Powered ultralights can only operate during daylight in Class G uncontrolled airspace and do not require the operator to hold a pilot's license. The propulsion system consists of 18 electric motors, each with its own battery pack and driving carbon fiber propellers.
Hexa will operate partly autonomously with pre-set limits, such as the need to prevent the aircraft from straying into controlled airspace. According to founder and CEO Matt Chasen, customers will be able to learn how to fly the Hexa with less than an hour of training. Beyond leisure flying, Lift intends to support short personal transportation travel for flights of up to around 15 miles in a new version of the Hexa that it aims to bring to market by the end of the 2020s.
Lift Aircraft says it has been flying the prototype since early 2019 and making preparations for series production. In December 2019, it was preparing to do a limited number of customer flight demonstrations in its home city of Austin, Texas. Plans for a 25-city U.S. demonstration tour due to start in the first quarter of 2020 were pushed back to make time for more flight tests, and then further delayed by Covid restrictions.
In a year-end blog published in December 2020, Chasen reported that the Lift team had completed "hundreds" of test flights during 2020. They also took the opportunity to introduce several design changes to the landing gear and floats, as well as the means to fold the airframe for easy storage.
During the Vertical Flight Society's Forum 77 event in early May 2021, Chasen said that his company is close to appointing a manufacturing partner, likely to be an existing tier one aerospace supplier, to step up planned production rates. On June 21, Lift Aircraft confirmed that Texas-based composites specialist Qarbon Aeropscae will be its manufacturing partner.
According to Chasen, the Texas-based company is currently producing about one of the vehicles each month and wants to double this rate by the end of 2021. At the end of 2020, Lift reported a waiting list of reservations for the Hexa from 15,000 prospective customers.
Company income has been boosted by a number of research and development contracts from the U.S. Air Force's Agility Prime program. It also has a partnership with the University of Texas's Center for Autonomous Air Mobility. In November 2020, Lift demonstrated the Hexa at the Urban Air Mobility Expo in South Korea.