Boeing LIFT! Project – Cooperative Drones to Reduce the Cost of Vertical Flight

Michael Duffy


The LIFT! Project explored scaling of all-electric multi-rotor propulsion and methods of cooperation between multiple VTOL aircraft. Multi-rotor aircraft have become pervasive throughout the hobby industry, toy industry and research institutions due – in part – to very powerful, inexpensive inertial measurement devices and increased energy density of Li-Ion batteries driven by the mobile phone industry. This research demonstrates the viability of large multi-rotor systems up to two magnitudes of gross weight larger than a typical COTS hobby multi-rotor vehicle. Furthermore, this research demonstrates modularity and cooperation between large multi-rotor aircraft. In order to study large multi-rotor technologies, The Boeing Company decided to build a series of large scale multi-rotor vehicles ranging from 6 lbs gross weight to over 525 lbs gross weight using low cost COTS components. The LIFT! Project successfully demonstrated the effectiveness, modularity and scalability of electric multi-rotor technologies while identifying a useful load fraction (useful load/gross weight) of 0.64 for large, electric, unmanned multi-rotor aircraft. This research offers new insights on the feasibility of large electric VTOL aircraft, empirical trends, potential markets, and future research necessary for the commercial viability of electric VTOL aircraft.