Tues­day 22 August at 11 am Cen­tral Day­light Time is when LIFT’s chief pilot Jace ‘Dig­it’ McCown will con­duct the world’s first eVTOL livestream flight from its new flight oper­a­tions and devel­op­ment cen­tre near Austin, Texas, fol­low­ing which he will take ques­tions.

McCown for­mer­ly flew the UH1N heli­copter for the US Air Force. He now lives near Austin, Texas, with his wife, Chelsea, and their six kids. He is also a skilled engi­neer and pilot.

He said: “Dig­it is the call sign I earned at the end of my Air Force career after I man­aged to put my hand into a pow­er saw while I was doing some wood­work­ing and I near­ly lost some of my dig­its.

“Luck­i­ly, they were retained through the work of some real­ly tal­ent­ed med­ical pro­fes­sion­als. I do have pret­ty good use of my hand despite all that. The last two years I was in the Air Force I was not fly­ing because of that injury. Despite even­tu­al­ly get­ting my flight clear­ance back, this led me to choose to leave the ser­vice to pur­sue unmanned air­craft.”

His favourite ani­mal grow­ing up was the pere­grine fal­con because of its speed. He focussed his entire high school career on that goal but when he got through the first phase of pilot train­ing, the USAF was not look­ing for any fight­ers.

He then start­ed a mas­ter’s degree in Agro­forestry, inte­grat­ing mul­ti­ple farm­ing sys­tems togeth­er, and fly­ing robot­ics seemed to be the way for­ward, get­ting into drones and using his back­ground in com­put­er engi­neer­ing and prob­lem solv­ing.

That is how he end­ed up get­ting into drones, start­ing with a com­pa­ny fly­ing large car­go drones with an eigh­teen foot wingspan. At the time he had nev­er flown a remote­ly con­trolled plane or a mul­ti-copter, hav­ing oper­at­ed a lit­tle cam­era drone.

McCown added: “I learned a lot there about elec­tric propul­sion, con­trol sys­tems and man­u­fac­tur­ing of car­bon fibre, and that led me to LIFT Air­craft when it was look­ing for some­one to fill a very sim­i­lar role.

“With the US Air Force as a LIFT cus­tomer, it is def­i­nite­ly full cir­cle. Where we’re test­ing out at Eglin Air Force Base, HEXA is actu­al­ly along­side the UH-1N heli­copter test air­craft.

“Work­ing with the Air Force pro­fes­sion­als has been just amaz­ing. I did not get to go to test pilot school, but I’m now work­ing with my friends who I flew with in the air force who did go down that path.

“In HEXA, the com­plex­i­ties of oper­at­ing the air­craft are large­ly born by the com­put­ers and ground crew, and the safe­ty and the redun­dan­cies built in make it unnec­es­sary to think about dif­fi­cul­ties the first time you climb in.

“HEXA has an open cab­in so you’re just right there. Your field of view isn’t clut­tered with innu­mer­able instru­ment pan­els. You don’t need to feel like you’ve got to check on the engines and all these things to make sure every­thing is aligned because you know HEXA’s doing that for you.”