The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

On The Radar

USAF Captain Is First Military Pilot To Take the Controls of Remotely Piloted eVTOL

A U.S. Air Force (USAF) officer recently conducted the first remotely piloted flight of an eVTOL aircraft under the direct control of the government. Capt. Terrence McKenna, who is a reserve pilot and test and experimentation lead with the USAF’s Afwerx Agility Prime program, participated in remote-pilot-in-control exercises on Kitty Hawk’s Heavyside vehicle in December, according to this just-published Air Force report.

As part of its Afwerx contract, the California-based company is working with the USAF to develop a training syllabus for remotely piloted operations of its uncrewed vehicle. Capt. McKenna’s training culminated in him using the Buddy Box System to control the Heaviside, which is one of several eVTOL types being evaluated by the USAF for possible military applications.

In July 2021, the USAF granted airworthiness approval for the Heaviside, clearing the way for Kitty Hawk to expand its flight-testing regime through the Agility Prime program. According to the Afwerx, which is the USAF’s technology accelerator unit, Josh Lane, a flight-test engineer with Agility Prime, has been working with Kitty Hawk since March 2021 to support prototype testing aimed at certifying the Heaviside under FAA’s Part 23 rules.

Capt. McKenna has piloted crewed aircraft, including the C-5 Galaxy transporter and the T-38 Talon jet trainer. As a civilian engineer, he has been involved in the development and testing of several small uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS).