AFWERX Agility Prime, Kitty Hawk remotely pilot eVTOL

Departments - Up and Soaring

Aquiline Drones, Aware Technology team for emergency response; Northern Plains UAS Test Site names executive director.

February 24, 2022

Parker Downey, of Kittyhawk (left), and Terrence McKenna, a U.S. Air Force Reserve pilot (right) conduct preflight checks for the Heaviside flight.
Photo credit: Kitty Hawk

The AFWERX Agility Prime program took another step forward in December 2021 with the first government remotely piloted flight of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Capt. Terrence McKenna, a U.S. Air Force Reserve pilot with the 370th Flight Test Squadron and the test and experimentation lead for AFWERX Agility Prime, participated in remote pilot in control (rPIC) training on the Heaviside eVTOL aircraft at the Kitty Hawk Corp. facility in Palo Alto, California. He then flew the Heaviside via the Buddy Box System, a secondary remote controller intended for an instructor and a student performing the duties of an external pilot in manual flight mode. The trainee handles and operates the aircraft while the instructor provides supervision and support. The instructor can override any direction that the rPIC gives the aircraft from the primary controller.

Kitty Hawk, in partnership with Agility Prime, is evaluating a training syllabus for their unmanned eVTOL aircraft. McKenna, with 15+ years of expertise piloting manned aircraft as well as designing, developing, and testing manned and small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) as a civilian engineer, is assisting Kitty Hawk’s team of engineers in refining their product and training procedures.

“The main objective is to help collaboratively develop syllabi for these platforms with Kitty Hawk and our Air Education and Training Command (AETC) detachment [Det 62],” McKenna says.

Aquiline Drones, Aware Technology team for emergency response

American drone manufacturer and cloud technology company Aquiline Drones (AD) partnered with AWARE, a cloud-based suite of secure technologies designed to enhance first responders’ emergency response.

The collaboration creates a software as a service (SaaS) platform that extends AWARE’s Smart Response Software to AD’s Spartacus line of autonomous, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled, U.S.-made drones. Cloud based cognitive AI services will help firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) assess a situation and deploy resources in real time during an emergency.

The AWARE platform’s three main components:

  • ActionMap: A unified mapping platform allows dispatchers, commanders, and first responders to view the same information including critical infrastructure, hospitals, and schools, while displaying live video, near real time audio transcription, pictures, GPS locations, and known hazards.
  • Multi-Modal Communications (MMC): A secure communications platform integrates live voice-to-text transcription with text messaging, voice playback, and customizable keyword highlight to improve comprehension and situational awareness of 911 operators, field responders, and command center personnel.
  • AwareMobile: A smart phone application allows the user to stay updated with an event or incident while in the field by easily sending and receiving secure messages, pictures, and video while also following along with MMC transcription that reduces the need for repeated radio transmissions and provides accurate locations and navigation details.

Northern Plains UAS Test Site names executive director

The Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) in North Dakota, one of seven Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites, named Trevor Woods executive director. The Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, which oversees NPUASTS, chose Woods for his UAS expertise, business experience, and future vision for the test site. Woods, the former director of safety, has been with NPUASTS since its inception and was part of the proposal team that pitched North Dakota to the FAA as an ideal test site location.

Woods was also instrumental in the conception and development of Vantis, North Dakota’s statewide UAS beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) network, which is administered by NPUASTS. He holds a commercial pilot license and is a certified flight instructor with instrument rating.