- Austin startup Lift Aircraft created Hexa, a flying vehicle that looks like a drone.
- The COVID-19 pandemic postponed a planned national tour of the vehicle.
- The company is selling a few Hexas for $US495,000 to be used as a rental.
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Hexa is essentially a recreational vehicle for the air, able to fly in 15-minute intervals at low altitudes. Lift plans to market them to millennials with disposable income and anyone chasing adrenaline, because a pilot’s licence isn’t required. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed plans, but Lift still says it will be touring locations across the US where anyone meeting height, weight, and age requirements can pay to fly. As of November 2019, Lift says it had more than 15,000 flights on a waitlist to ride Hexa.
The company is also selling a small number of Hexas to buyers who will then rent them out. They cost $US495,000, and only five are still available.
Here’s how they work.
Hexa flies through electric propulsion.
Its 18 separate electric propellers and motors move the vehicle through the air.
Five floats, one large one in the centre with four around the sides, provide buoyancy for water landings.
Hexa is surprisingly light, at only 432 pounds.
The frame is made entirely of carbon fibre.
The FAA qualified Hexa as “ultralight,” so no pilot’s licence is necessary for flying.
Instead, the autopilot computer with triple redundancies flies the vehicle, along with a three-axis joystick.
Or, it can be controlled from the seven-inch touchscreen.
Lift says it gives “plenty of training” before takeout.
All those redundancies also make Hexa safer; it can still fly and land with up to six motors disabled.
As a backup, it also has a parachute and airbag system.
The vehicle is built to carry one person.
Before flying, that person must sign a waiver, then train in the virtual reality simulator.
Then, the ground crew sets the passenger up in the vehicle for the ride, which is monitored the entire time.
“Autonomy is actually much easier in the air than for cars on the ground – there are far fewer obstacles, no roads, no traffic lights, and you have 3 dimensions to move around,” founder Matt Chasen said.
When it approaches a certain battery level, Hexa will automatically land at a safe designated spot.
Lift postponed a planned 25 city tour to show off the vehicle because of the pandemic, and the company says it is using that extra time for more testing and development.
Eventually, the plan is for anyone who meets certain age and height requirements to be able to rent Hexa for a ride.
Jeff Bezos did it, back in 2018.
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