The Science Behind the Heist in Lift, Explained

Cyrus Whitaker and his team of robbers try to steal half a billion worth of gold from a moving airplane in Netflix’s heist film ‘Lift.’ Since Cyrus doesn’t want to hijack the plane to steal the gold, jeopardizing his and his crew’s safety, he relies on high-end scientific methods to fulfill the biggest “lift” of their lives. With the help of minds such as Mi-Sun, Magnus, and Luke and the flying skills of Camila, Cyrus put a master plan in place to complete his heist. Although his methods seem complicated, there is a scientific foundation to his plan and actions! SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Second Aircraft and the Radar Signature Swap

Cyrus’ plan to steal the gold begins with renting a second aircraft to fly right beneath Sky Suisse’s flight that transports the gold. For his plan to work, the airplane shouldn’t travel to its original destination, which is Zürich. He wants the aircraft to travel to Cortina d’Ampezzo, a comune in the heart of the southern Alps in northern Italy, to unload the gold to a train bound for Interpol’s Officer Huxley. To make this happen, he needs to hide the Sky Suisse plane from the radar of the Air Traffic Control and send another aircraft to Zürich carrying its signals while the former travels to Cortina.

The rented jet Camila flies swaps the passenger airplane’s radar signature, linking its radar signals to a drone in the jet. For the plan to work, both the airplane and the jet have to be invisible, making the drone the only flying object as far as the Air Traffic Control is concerned. Luke makes the jet invisible using stealth technology, which is also known as low-observable technology. He covers the body of the jet with radiation-absorbent material (RAM), which is used to reduce the reflected RF radiation, making it invisible on the radar. For the passenger airplane, Mi-Sun uses a Portable Signal Interference Device AKA PSID.

The device serves as a jammer, cutting off any signals sent by the airplane to the Air Traffic Control. Once it is turned on, the airplane becomes invisible as well, making the drone the only visible object, which flies to Zürich. To make Camila’s job easier, Luke uses the 482 cameras from N8’s mask, which are connected to the RAM plates for the pilot to view the Sky Suisse plan through several angles.

The Stewart Platform and the Gold Swap

After taking care of the Air Traffic Control, Cyrus and Magnus’ challenge is opening the safe in which the gold is stored. To open it, Magnus has developed a laser but it can only be used on the ground since it won’t work on a turbulent surface such as an airplane floor. If he uses a bipod or tripod, the laser will move when the plane becomes turbulent. Any movement of the laser, even if it’s just millimeters, will lock the safe for good, making it impossible to open it. Thus, Cyrus proposes using a Stewart platform, a hexapod that ensures maximum balance or as Cyrus says, stability.

Rather than positioning the hexapod on the airplane floor, Magnus attaches the parallel manipulator horizontally to the safe itself. Due to its positioning, the turbulence doesn’t affect the hexapod at all, only for the laser to do its job without any interference. As per the plan Cyrus details to Abby, Harry’s people are expected to unload the gold from the airplane to take it to Interpol. However, Cyrus isn’t ready to forsake the fruit of his and his crew’s immense labor. Without letting Abby know, he instructs Magnus to swap the real gold with metal blocks dipped in gold paint to fool both Lars Jorgensen’s men and Interpol officers.

Cyrus loads the metal blocks or the fake gold onto the airplane without informing Abby. After opening the safe and collecting the real gold, Magnus drops it from the airplane, only for Luke to navigate it to a safe location. Jorgensen’s men and later Huxley only manage to lay their hands on the fake gold. Cyrus’ heist gets completed with the swap but his plan doesn’t eliminate the threat of Jorgensen. Still, he manages to do that using the cameras Luke attached to the RAM plates. After crash-landing the jet with the fake gold on Jorgensen’s property, Cyrus asks Mi-Sun to turn on one of the cameras to capture the criminal killing the representative of Leviathan, the group of hackers who are doing business with him.

The video footage becomes the evidence to arrest Jorgensen. Cyrus and his crew then celebrate the completion of the heist without worrying about Jorgensen hunting them down.

Read More: Is Netflix’s Lift Based on a True Story or a Book?