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AFWERX Agility Prime completes first USAF-piloted flight of an eVTOL automobile with companion Kitty Hawk – sUAS Information


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The AFWERX Agility Prime program took one other step ahead in December with the primary authorities remotely piloted flight of an electrical Vertical Takeoff and Touchdown (eVTOL) plane.

Capt. Terrence McKenna, an Air Pressure Reserve pilot with the 370th Flight Take a look at Squadron and the Take a look at and Experimentation Lead for AFWERX Agility Prime, participated in distant pilot in management (rPIC) coaching on the Heaviside plane on the Kitty Hawk Company’s facility in Palo Alto, California from Dec. 13-17, 2021.

The coaching culminated within the first authorities distant piloted flight of an electrical Vertical Takeoff and Touchdown (eVTOL) plane when he efficiently flew the Heaviside through the Buddy Field System. This primary Airman flight demonstrated one other key milestone within the collaboration.

Kitty Hawk, in partnership with Agility Prime, is evaluating a coaching syllabus for his or her unmanned eVTOL plane, the Heaviside. McKenna’s over 15 years of experience piloting manned plane such because the C-5 and the T-38, in addition to designing, creating, and testing manned and small unmanned plane techniques (sUAS) as a civilian engineer, assisted Kitty Hawk’s group of engineers in refining each their product and their coaching procedures.

Kitty Hawk: Constructing on the Wright Brothers’ Legacy

Kitty Hawk Company was based in 2010 by Sebastian Thrun and is backed by Google co-founder Larry Web page. Their collection of Heaviside plane are simply a number of in a line of over 20 varied eVTOL prototypes. Kitty Hawk is headquartered in Palo Alto, California and conducts a lot of its testing there. In July 2021, the USAF granted Kitty Hawk airworthiness approval, enabling the corporate to make the most of further testing alternatives via a partnership with Agility Prime.

Josh Lane, a Flight Take a look at Engineer (FTE) for Agility Prime, started working with Kitty Hawk in March 2021 and has collaborated with Kitty Hawk to develop check plans supporting their prototype testing and objectives to commercialization.

Specializing in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revised Half 23, the security requirements and sort certification necessities for small plane, and different probably related elements of the Code of Federal Rules, eVTOL firms like Kitty Hawk gained a higher understanding of the necessities they must adjust to with a view to acquire sort certification. Nevertheless, Lane defined that the highway to certification for eVTOLs is an ongoing, collaborative course of.

“These are new designs that don’t match the FAA mould, and there’s not a 100% slot in a few of these firms’ circumstances, so there’s a number of engagement happening getting this path to a licensed FAA plane,” Lane mentioned. “They’re utilizing baseline Elements and dealing with the FAA to find out what that certification foundation is and what areas to be adjusted and addressed.”

McKenna concurred, saying, “Agility Prime is determining how we method coaching for most of these plane. This can be a complete new ballpark.”

The Heaviside Plane

Named for the English engineer, physicist, and mathematician Oliver Heaviside, the Heaviside is Kitty Hawk’s present flying mannequin. The corporate has labored via a number of iterations of this automobile and are within the planning phases for the following.

The Heaviside was first deployed in 2019 after almost a decade of improvement. This plane’s most takeoff weight is roughly 880 kilos, permitting for a passenger as much as about 176 kilos. Heaviside can journey at speeds of roughly 180 miles per hour, however most importantly, it stays quiet: solely about 35 decibels at 1,500 ft above floor degree, which is barely louder than a whisper and about 100 occasions quieter than a helicopter. Moreover, Heaviside has demonstrated 237 transitions between hover and ahead flight, in addition to a spread of 100 miles on a single cost.

Heaviside takes benefit of a number of superior applied sciences, equivalent to Distributed Electrical Propulsion (DEP), as this plane has eight absolutely electrical propellers. Moreover, Lane explains that Kitty Hawk has refined its use of automated flight capabilities via its Floor Management Station (GCS); engineers can add a flight plan, telling the automobile to fly to sure places, and the Heaviside can carry out all the flight profile with out human intervention.

Nevertheless, a coaching characteristic of the Heaviside is the Buddy Field setup, which is a secondary distant controller wired to a major controller. This method is meant for using an teacher and a scholar performing the duties of an exterior pilot in handbook flight mode; the trainee handles and operates the plane whereas the teacher supplies supervision and assist.

The Buddy Field system works very similar to a driver’s schooling automobile: the driving teacher is within the passenger seat and permits the coed to manually function the automobile, however is in the end in full management and in a position to brake if mandatory. Likewise, for a Buddy Field setup, the teacher can override any course that the distant pilot in command (rPIC) offers the plane from the first controller.

The Heaviside and future fashions won’t depend on an exterior pilot for flight operations, however using this coaching methodology now affords the chance for extra rapid and qualitative suggestions on the plane, whereas additionally constructing out a coaching syllabus for the GCS operator.

Coaching with Captain Terrence McKenna

Although the present coaching plan for the Heaviside features a five-day familiarization course and a 12-day rPIC qualification course, McKenna participated in parts of solely the familiarization course.

Kitty Hawk makes use of strategies equivalent to State of affairs-Primarily based Coaching (SBT), which is derived from the FAA’s Airmen Certification Requirements (ACS) and locations the coed in lifelike conditions with a view to full every lesson goal. Moreover, Kitty Hawk employs Learner-Centered Grading, permitting college students to evaluate their very own efficiency in open dialog with their teacher.

Agility Prime selected McKenna to take part on this coaching as a result of he fulfilled Kitty Hawk’s trainee stipulations, which embody possessing both a navy pilot ranking or an FAA Half 107 and 61 certificates. By a building-block method, college students should additionally display proficiency in flying smaller distant management (RC) plane, equivalent to fixed-wing plane and quadcopter, earlier than graduating to the Heaviside.

In the course of the week in California, McKenna primarily targeting the duties of the exterior pilot, flying in handbook mode, somewhat than automated flight and working the GCS. Days 1 and a couple of centered on floor lecturers, together with simulation coaching, preflight checklists, and publicity to the Heaviside’s GCS. Inclement climate saved the plane grounded, however McKenna reported a productive day of reviewing operations and discussing syllabus improvement.

Then, on Day 3, after finishing a number of flights on smaller RC plane, McKenna efficiently piloted the primary USAF flight of an Agility Prime sponsored automobile, navigating the Heaviside via the sky because the Exterior Pilot at Kitty Hawk’s check web site. By the top of the day, McKenna had carried out 3 profitable flights, specializing in vertical maneuvers, takeoff and touchdown, manipulation on all axes, auto-hover, and handbook flight.
McKenna described that working because the Exterior Pilot permits pilots to get a really feel for what the plane is able to because it strikes via the sky.

“It’s a special paradigm for working the plane,” McKenna mentioned. “A vital factor that the RC controller permits you to do {that a} fully unmanned or a very ground-controlled station based mostly method doesn’t is [gain] that instinct in regards to the flight traits of the plane which can be so necessary [for operational employment].”
Days 4 and 5 concluded the week by coaching McKenna on fixed-wing flight, outbound and inbound transitions to vertical flight, and flying full profiles. McKenna reported enthusiastic satisfaction with the examined coaching strategies from Agility Prime, AETC Det 62, and Kitty Hawk.

“I really feel very assured within the coaching [including] pre-study, floor lecturers, simulation work, and surrogate flights to get us thus far,” McKenna mentioned.

Syllabus Growth in Partnership with AETC’s Detachment 62

Whereas McKenna certainly discovered to remotely pilot the Heaviside, a vital goal of the weeklong train was to judge and enhance the coaching plan itself for future operations.

“The primary goal is to assist collaboratively develop syllabi for these platforms with Kitty Hawk and our AETC detachment [Det 62],” McKenna mentioned.

To observe and consider McKenna’s coaching course of, the Air Schooling and Coaching Command (AETC) despatched out Det 62 personnel to lend their expertise with creating flight coaching plans. The Det 62 group labored carefully with Kitty Hawk and the Agility Prime check group to draft an preliminary syllabus for McKenna for check and coaching. The group coordinated with Kitty Hawk’s analysts, in addition to Agility Prime, to watch, collect knowledge, evaluate coaching processes, and conduct detailed debriefs alongside the best way. Furthermore, Brittney Powerful, Kitty Hawk’s Senior Flight Coaching Supervisor, additionally introduced intensive data and expertise to the desk and served as an asset to authorities flight check groups.

“There’s a chance between the navy and the civilians to study from one another on good practices and approaches to coaching plan improvement,” Lane mentioned. “I’m sure that there’s going to be some studying getting in each instructions.”

Wanting ahead to the potential navy utility of the Heaviside, Lane expressed the vitality of the AETC’s presence at and contribution to the mission.
“It’s big that AETC despatched out this detachment, and so they’re doing this early work to decrease threat and pave the trail for integrating a number of of those firms’ techniques into navy use, and making an attempt to guarantee that’s as seamless as attainable,” Lane mentioned.

Lane and McKenna each emphasised the significance of Agility Prime’s early involvement and cooperation with {industry} with a view to speed up the event of the eVTOL market.

“There’s three legs to the stool: coaching, the plane itself, and the logistics to assist it,” Lane defined. “The everyday objective is to have your coaching system in place, in order that if you area a system, you could have individuals which can be prepared to make use of it.”

McKenna spoke to the success of Air Pressure early involvement via Agility Prime with eVTOL firms like Kitty Hawk.

“That interplay is paying dividends, and it’s persevering with to develop,” he mentioned. “Firsthand, I’ve seen that interplay show fruitful on each ends.”

Extra Successes: BVLOS Flight and FlyOhio

The primary USAF-piloted flight of an eVTOL builds on current highlights and milestones within the Agility Prime program. On Nov. 10, 2021, Kitty Hawk efficiently accomplished its first past visible line of sight (BVLOS) flight throughout the Ohio Superior Air Mobility Showcase, organized by FlyOhio, on the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, close to Wright-Patterson Air Pressure Base.

“The Air Pressure has been a robust companion for us as we carry eVTOLs nearer to being prepared for human flight,” mentioned Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Kitty Hawk. “In Ohio, we hit an necessary milestone making us the primary UAM supplier to fly a remotely-piloted plane BVLOS in a non-restricted air house.”

Utilizing SkyVision, a ground-based detect-and-avoid system developed by the Air Pressure Analysis Laboratory, at the side of the Ohio Division of Transportation (ODOT), Kitty Hawk safely maneuvered Heaviside amongst different manned flight site visitors.

“The Heaviside BVLOS testing supplies a superb instance of Agility Prime’s goal to companion with {industry} and supply entry to key authorities check assets, equivalent to SkyVision, and [this] experience continues to assist advance the business eVTOL {industry},” mentioned Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director.

Heaviside’s Objectives and Ecosystem Influence

The Heaviside’s utility extends into each the business and navy worlds. Kitty Hawk hopes to supply a business air taxi service, however their eVTOL presents a mess of alternatives for each civilian and authorities use.

In the end, Kitty Hawk hopes to decrease prices with their automobile, making aerial ridesharing extra accessible and reasonably priced to the overall inhabitants.

McKenna famous that potential navy and {industry} use circumstances largely overlap for the Heaviside: the plane may transport injured personnel, evacuate individuals from hostile territories, ship cargo or first help, make emergency medical providers extra accessible in rural areas or congested cities, and help with firefighting or search and rescue operations, amongst many different potential eventualities.

“What we’re making an attempt to do is develop a coaching pipeline within the Air Pressure to know most of these plane,” McKenna mentioned. “If we will get a joint Air Pressure-industry experimentation group, we will now open the aperture on engagements for most of these plane dramatically.”

No matter how these autos are put to make use of post-certification, Lane drew consideration to the practicality of implementing eVTOL plane into society. Although Prime focuses on how the Heaviside and its opponents have an effect on the Nationwide Airspace System (NAS), new eVTOL know-how will influence all the aviation ecosystem.

“Most simplistically, it’s extra than simply plane; it’s these airsystems and all the ecosystem that they are going to fly in and that must assist them,” Lane mentioned. “There’s analysis and testing exercise happening to develop, improve, and bolster the Nationwide Airspace System (NAS) in order that we will begin incorporating these new capabilities.”
General, each McKenna and Lane praised the teamwork mandatory to realize this milestone flight.

“We’re establishing the interplay and the processes to ensure every thing is vetted and authorised and performed in a protected method,” McKenna mentioned. “It’s an effective way to speed up innovation, supporting {industry} and maintaining with them. It’s been an awesome group effort, and I’m enthusiastic about the way it got here collectively.”

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