Kitty Hawk has joined the US Air Force’s Agility Prime programme, with its Heaviside eVTOL becoming the first electric aircraft to be used in a medical evacuation exercise.

A diverse group of industry and government operators, engineers and test professionals assessed Heaviside’s ability to do personnel recovery and logistics, while Kitty Hawk’s team demonstrated the aircraft’s remote flying capabilities.  

The exercise gathered a rich catalogue of data to inform dual-use utility at the prototype stage, which will inform future developmental and fielding decisions. Besides assessing different loading scenarios, the team also observed demonstrations of remotely piloted and fully autonomous flights with Heaviside. 

Col. Don Haley, Commander of Air Education and Training Command Detachment 62, who leads a team in developing training syllabi for eVTOL aircraft, said: “This collaborative commercial/DoD use-case exploration revealed common attributes that serve both urban air mobility and search and rescue operations: High-reliability, responsive launch & recovery, minimal logistical footprint, accessibility for mobility-challenged, low acoustic signature, and high levels of autonomy.”

Founded in 2010 and based in California, Kitty Hawk has developed numerous eVTOL vehicles including the Heaviside vehicle, which is named after English engineer Oliver Heaviside.

It flies at speeds of up to 180 mph with a potential range of 100 miles plus reserves on a single charge. It takes off and lands in a 30×30 foot space, reaches sound levels of 38 dBA at 1,000 feet and is 100x quieter than a helicopter. Kitty Hawk added that it requires less than half the energy per mile of a conventional electric car.

Sebastian Thrun, Kitty Hawk CEO, said: “The world is going to need new modes of transportation and Heaviside is one path to getting us there. We are excited to be working with Agility Prime and look forward to our continued collaboration as we bring eVTOLs to more people.” 

Lt. Col. Martin Salinas, the mission design team lead in the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC), said: “This exercise produced important data that will bolster the program going forward.

“The Agility Prime and Kitty Hawk teams facilitated the convergence of Air Force and Marine Corps testers and operators to engage with Heaviside, all while experimenting within the context of Personnel Recovery and logistics use-case scenarios.”

Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX Director, added: “We are pleased to welcome a new partner and happy about the progress in this first Agility Prime exercise. This is just the beginning of many examples that the team will be exploring in the coming months to partner with commercial companies in a way that accelerates maturity for commercialisation, while providing the Department of the Air Force with decision-quality data for future force design.” 

As well as working with the US Air Force, Kitty Hawk is also working with Danish emergency response and healthcare company Falck, to create a framework which will see Heaviside used for emergency medical missions.