Sikorsky has announced plans to build a full scale, autonomous, hybrid-electric technology demonstrator to research commercial and military eVTOL missions. The prototype is dubbed under the program name HEX and will feature a gross weight of more than 7,000 pounds. The uncrewed aircraft will act as a test bed for evaluation of eVTOL aircraft design and propulsion systems. The project also will partner with GE Aerospace and its CT7 turboshaft engine with 1MW-class generator currently under production for the US Army and NASA.
“As Sikorsky celebrates 100 years of flight innovations, it’s fitting to highlight our continued commitment to safe and sustainable transformative flight,” said Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky president. “Sikorsky’s HEX aircraft will provide critical insights into the possibilities of electric systems in VTOL aircraft. Ultimately, we want to show the potential of large, advanced air mobility vehicles to perform utility missions for the U.S. military and transport passengers between cities.”
“Bringing innovative technology is a top priority for GE Aerospace,” said Amy Gowder, President and CEO of Defense & Systems at GE Aerospace. “We are committed to developing hybrid electric propulsion systems that save fuel and optimize performance for the military and commercial applications. We are thrilled to build off our existing work with NASA and the Army to offer to power Sikorsky’s HEX aircraft and bolster the future of flight.”
The Sikorsky Innovations prototyping group will head up the HEX project under the direction of Igor Cherepinsky. Sikorsky’s MATRIX autonomy system will control flight aboard the HEX aircraft. Developed and tested extensively over the past decade, the software, hardware and sensors that comprise the MATRIX system have demonstrated high flight reliability in low-altitude and obstacle-rich scenarios. During the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence 2022 exercise, a MATRIX-controlled Black Hawk helicopter without pilots or crew on board demonstrated optionally piloted resupply missions.
Why it matters: Lockheed Martin owned Sikorsky Helicopters is one of the pillars of the helicopter manufacturing industry and their technical expertise on hovercraft will be invaluable for producing an eVTOL prototype. By partnering with GE Aerospace, Sikorsky also gains a reputable partner for its propulsion platform. Expect to see more news as the HEX technology demonstrator is built up and test flown.