Springfield, region playing key role in development of ‘flying car’ technology with Air Force

Springfield is quickly becoming an important location for the future of transportation as companies work with the Air Force to test and develop “flying car” technology.

Austin-based LIFT Aircraft on Friday showcased its “flying car” technology as well as its simulator at the Springfield Beckley Municipal Airport. It’s first time that type of aircraft has come to Ohio.

“These type of electric multi-rotor autonomous aircraft are really, we believe, the future of flight. It is safer, lower cost and easy to fly, anyone can fly it,” said Matthew Chasen, the CEO of LIFT Aircraft.

His company will have at least one electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, also known as a flying car, at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport. Along with the flight simulator, that technology will be used for multiple phases of flight testing.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

That testing and LIFT’s presence at the airport is part of a larger effort by the Air Force to aid in the development of that type of technology.

LIFT joins BETA Technologies and Joby Aviation, two pioneer businesses in the field of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, to work with the Air Force at the airport in Springfield as part of a project called Agility Prime.

The Air Force recently launched the $35 million program, seeking to create and speed a commercial market for advanced air mobility aircraft, this news organization previously reported.

At the same time the Air Force is seeking to create a supply chain to support production of that type of aircraft, sometimes called “air taxis.”

There was also a groundbreaking last year at the Springfield airport for an “advanced urban air mobility technology simulator” facility to aid those companies working on that technology.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The airport was recently awarded a $226,000 grant from JobsOhio’s Ohio Site Inventory Program (OSIP) for infrastructure work to support charging stations and flight simulators for “flying car” technology.

Elaine Bryant, with the Dayton Development Coalition as well as with JobsOhio, said Springfield’s close proximity to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base makes it ideal for this type of project.

“It allows our Air Force engineers and professionals to come out to the airport here and actually lay eyes on actual hardware and potentially work on it alongside these companies as they continue to do the research and development required for this new industry,” Bryant said.

“We are also very excited about the potential to manufacture. As these companies do their research testing, we look at the deployment stage of this,” she added.

Tom Franzen, the director of economic development for Springfield, said that the companies working at the airport as part of Agility Prime will eventually lead to more local growth surrounding the new industry.

“To have these leading (eVTOL) companies here at the airport is really just creating that ground floor. It is going to build momentum and other companies are going to follow,” he said.

Franzen said the companies will use office space at the airport’s hanger as well as at its terminal. He said the next step would be to build a two-story office building at the airport that would also feature an associated hanger.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

He said the city is still exploring that option and has estimated that the project would cost $7.5 million. The goal is to have an official announcement made by the summer.

Chasen said his company has developed a plan for the testing of its aircraft that will range from low altitude flights to flying higher, faster and further as well as deploying a ballistic parachute.

“This is one of the first aircraft in the world of its kind to enter production. There are a handful of companies that are developing different types of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. There are all sorts of stages and configurations,” he said.

Chasen said the aircraft will be simple and small and will conform to the Federal Aviation Administration’s ultralight classification. It also does not require a pilots license to fly.

He said that is a different approach than a number of companies that are building multi-passenger commercial “air taxi” aircraft, which takes longer to develop.

“This technology works like a drone. You just tell it where to go and the autopilot computer interprets your commands and adjusts the RPM of the electric motors,” Chasen said.

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