AFWERX Agility Prime partner Kitty Hawk has been awarded an airworthiness approval by the US Air Force, which allows Kitty Hawk’s Heaviside eVTOL to enter its next phase of flight testing under air force direction.

These flight tests will aim to explore the unique attributes of the Heaviside aircraft and its potential utility for both military and commercial use cases. This will be under the supervision of AFRL engineers and other military stakeholders, representing an important milestone in the joint project. 

The air-worthiness certification is only granted after a thorough engineering review of Kitty Hawk’s design and testing process and represents the air force accepting the controlled risk of the flight test programme. This is a significant step in the development, which will allow experimentation and assessment of the airframe to continue through flight tests at the Agility Prime and AFRL team’s direction. 

Sebastian Thrun, co-founder and CEO of Kitty Hawk, said: “We are excited to have hit this important milestone with the U.S. Air Force. The urban air mobility landscape is changing and partners like Agility Prime are at the forefront of paving the way for faster, quieter and greener transportation.”

This announcement follows on from AFWERX conducting its first medevac exercise using Heaviside, which is named after English engineer Oliver Heaviside.

It is designed to travel 100 miles on a single charge and has sound levels of 38 decibels at 1,000 feet, the aircraft should be 100 times quieter than a conventional helicopter and requires half of the energy per mile of an electric car. It has both remotely piloted, and autonomous flight modes, giving it increased versatility for future use.

Col. Nathan Diller, Director of AFWERX, said: “Achieving this airworthiness authorisation in the Agility Prime program is a key milestone. This not only unlocks the opportunity to begin Air Force directed flight tests, but it also shows the high level of maturity of this technology and the high level of maturity of Agility Prime partner companies like Kitty Hawk.

“This is the fourth Agility Prime partner to achieve airworthiness in less than a year, demonstrating the ability to scale innovation in Air Force Materiel Command.”

As well as Kitty Hawk, other companies which have already secured airworthiness approval include Beta Technologies and Joby Aviation.

Maj. John Tekell, Agility Prime Lead, added: “Agility Prime is proud to have achieved this important milestone with Kitty Hawk for the Heaviside aircraft. We are excited to work alongside the Kitty Hawk team as we explore concepts of operation that capture new approaches to air mobility.”

Founded in 2010, Kitty Hawk has developed numerous eVTOL vehicles in addition to Heaviside and continues to test numerous routes forward in developing this groundbreaking technology.

Developers and military collaborators are currently assessing a variety of commercial and military applications for the Heaviside aircraft, including urban air mobility and search and rescue operations.