Aerial Warfare

Sikorsky Looks To Future Family of Hybrid-electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Systems

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Sikorsky Looks To Future Family of Hybrid-electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Systems

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Sikorsky Looks To Future Family of Hybrid-electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Systems
Sikorsky Looks To Future Family of Hybrid-electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Systems

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, today unveiled its plan to build, test and fly a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing demonstrator (HEX / VTOL) with a tilt-wing configuration. The design is the first in a series of large, next generation VTOL aircraft — ranging from more traditional helicopters to winged configurations — which will feature varying degrees of electrification, and an advanced autonomy system for optionally piloted flight. The HEX program will put a premium on greater than 500 nautical mile range at high speed, fewer mechanical systems to reduce complexity, and lower maintenance costs. Sikorsky Innovations, the company’s prototyping group, and GE Aerospace are finalizing designs to build a hybrid-electric power systems testbed with a 600kW electric motor. The testbed is a first step to evaluate hover performance of the follow-on HEX demonstrator — a 9,000-pound maximum gross weight aircraft with 1.2MW-class turbogenerator and associated power electronics.

“Within Sikorsky’s electric pillar, we are designing electric motors, power electronics and our own vehicle management hardware and actuation. HEX will integrate these components, showcase the growing maturity of our MATRIX™ autonomy suite, and the potential for maintenance-free systems. Seeing the results will lead us to more efficient overall designs,” said Igor Cherepinsky, Sikorsky Innovations director.

“We never stop innovating at Sikorsky. Autonomy and electrification will bring transformational change to flight safety and operational efficiency of large VTOL aircraft. Our HEX demonstrator program will provide valuable insights as we look to a future family of aircraft built to the scale and preferred configurations relevant to commercial and military customers,” said Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo.

Autonomy and electrification will be foundational technologies for Sikorsky next generation VTOL aircraft.
Autonomy and electrification will be foundational technologies for Sikorsky next generation VTOL aircraft. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

HEX is Sikorsky’s first effort to integrate hybrid-electric propulsion and advanced autonomy into a VTOL aircraft. Both technologies are complementary. HEX will allow Sikorsky to explore the benefits of hybrid-electric propulsion while eliminating mechanical complexity, and reducing maintenance cost. Sikorsky’s MATRIX™ autonomy system will control the HEX power system, and manage optionally piloted flight for future manned and unmanned winged variants. Sikorsky is planning a family of next generation VTOL aircraft with electric propulsion and flight autonomy as foundational technologies. Geared toward military and commercial missions, the family of products will enable: Agile logisitics, Advanced Air Mobility and Collaborative VTOL UAS. The family of next-generation products will feature automated flight controls and varying degrees of electrification. Future aircraft will be more efficient and safer to fly, and more cost effective and sustainable to operate.

Sikorsky Innovations was formed in 2010 as a prototyping group to solve three big challenges in rotary wing flight — Speed, Autonomy, and Intelligence. Led by its director, Igor Cherepinsky, the Innovations team will design, build and integrate the HEX airframe and electric motors with the company’s MATRIX™ autonomy flight control system. Depending on insights learned from the flight test program, and assessment of customer applications, the HEX program could lead to a family of eVTOL vehicles scaled to carry passengers and payload for both military and commercial applications. 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.

Sikorsky Looks To Future Family of Hybrid-electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing Systems
Autonomy and electrification will be foundational technologies for Sikorsky next generation VTOL aircraft. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

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