eVTOL flights will begin next year in NYC – but there's a catch
You'll have to pilot this next-gen aircraft yourself – although that'll be easier than you'd think. Lift Aircraft says it'll take you less than an hour to learn to fly its Hexa eVTOL, and then you're off on a unique and spectacular sightseeing trip.
While big-time air taxi startups like Joby and Archer struggle their way through the painstaking process of FAA certification, hoping to hit the market in 2025, Lift seems to have found a loophole that'll get eVTOLs into certain use cases much earlier.
The Hexa is a super-simple and lightweight airframe; a manned multicopter with 18 smallish vertical lift props for massive redundancy, a small single-seat cabin, and a set of chunky floats on the bottom designed so it can land on the ground or the water if necessary.
Weighing only 432 lb (196 kg), it qualifies as a powered ultralight aircraft under FAA standards – and that means you don't need a pilot's license to fly it, provided you stick to uncontrolled airspace and uncongested flyover areas. There's plenty of this kind of airspace around Manhattan Island, says Lift, and the eVTOL itself is ridiculously easy to fly with a simple joystick, with fully automated takeoff and landing taking care of the riskiest parts of the endeavor.
According to Lift, you'll learn to fly the Hexa in less than an hour, using a VR simulator in the ground office. After a quick "skills and knowledge proficiency test," you'll become an approved pilot. From this point, you can book a flight anytime you feel like one through a phone app, which also handily walks you through a pre-flight check before you hop in the aircraft.
Once you're aboard, a tablet-sized screen will take you through the remainder of the pre-flight check, help you establish radio communications with the Lift flight control team, then run through a systems check and get you airborne to an altitude of 35 ft (10.6 m). After that, you're free to muck about however you choose for the next eight to 15 minutes, within the geofenced garden of your flight area, and with the aircraft automatically ensuring you stay well clear of other aircraft.
If the joystick feels like a bit much, you can use sliders on the screen, or even voice commands to execute certain actions. The system seems to be designed to keep beginners fairly close to home, with the ability to unlock higher speeds and greater distances after you've got a few flights under your belt.
So it's game on, apparently. Lift has signed a letter of intent with Charm Aviation, one of the East Coast's largest helicopter tour operators, to set up a new joint venture with a pre-order for 100 Hexa aircraft that'll be rented out for personal pleasure flights. The companies will develop multiple vertiport locations around the greater NYC area.
"Our top-selling helicopter tour flights last between 12 to15 minutes, so HEXA’s flight time is a perfect fit for self-piloted, recreational flights," says Caitlyn Ephraim, President of Charm Aviation. "These are like Segway tours, but in the air – with a much better view and much more fun. These small, electric aircraft are "geo-fenced," to keep them confined to pre-defined flight areas and corridors, have zero direct emissions, and are much quieter than helicopters, so will help to reduce the noise footprint of the fleets of helicopters we operate today. I can’t wait to fly HEXA around the Statue of Liberty. We think this is the future of the helicopter tour market."
Lift says it's already done hundreds of test flights, manned and unmanned. Take a look at one short test from two years ago in the video below.
Source: Lift Aircraft