Sikorsky looks to new generation of VTOL aircraft

Render of Sikorsky HEX VTOL aircraft in flight.
Image Credit: Sikorsky

Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), is taking to the skies with a bold vision for the future.

They recently unveiled plans to develop and test a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) demonstrator aircraft.

This innovative design, dubbed HEX, marks the first step in a series of next-generation VTOL aircraft.

Transforming VTOL Technology

Sikorsky President, Paul Lemmo, emphasizes the company’s commitment to continuous innovation, stating: “Autonomy and electrification represent a significant leap forward, enhancing both safety and operational efficiency for large VTOL aircraft.”

“The HEX demonstrator program provides a vital platform to gather valuable data as we design a future family of aircraft tailored to meet the specific needs and configurations of both commercial and military customers.”

HEX: Key Features

The HEX program prioritizes several key features, including:

  • Extended Range: The design aims for a range exceeding 500 nautical miles at high speeds.
  • Reduced Complexity: Fewer mechanical systems will simplify the design and minimize maintenance costs.
  • Advanced Autonomy: An optional pilot system using Sikorsky’s MATRIX™ autonomy suite offers enhanced safety and efficiency.

Taking Flight: From Testbed to Demonstrator

Sikorsky Innovations, in collaboration with GE Aerospace, is finalizing the design of a hybrid-electric power systems testbed equipped with a 600 kW electric motor.

This initial phase will pave the way for the development of the full-fledged HEX demonstrator. This larger aircraft will boast a maximum gross weight of 9,000 pounds and utilize a 1.2 MW-class turbogenerator and associated power electronics.

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Beyond HEX: Pushing the Boundaries

Igor Cherepinsky, Director of Sikorsky Innovations, highlights the program’s significance: “HEX not only integrates these cutting-edge components, but also showcases the advancements in our MATRIX™ autonomy suite and the potential for near-maintenance-free systems.”

“These insights will ultimately lead to the development of even more efficient VTOL designs.”

Sikorsky’s Legacy of Innovation:

Established in 2010, Sikorsky Innovations has consistently tackled the challenges of speed, autonomy, and intelligence within the realm of rotary-wing technology.

Discover more about their achievements in these areas here.

The Rising VTOL Market

The VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) aircraft market, specifically the eVTOL (electric VTOL) segment, is a fledgling but rapidly growing sector with immense potential to revolutionize transportation. Here’s a quick overview:

Market Size and Growth

  • The overall VTOL market, including non-electric options, is expected to reach $10 billion by 2032, growing at a 23.6% CAGR.
  • The eVTOL market is projected to be much larger, reaching $23.4 billion by 2030, with a staggering 52% CAGR.

Applications

  • Urban Air Mobility (UAM): This is the primary target market, envisioning eVTOLs as flying taxis connecting urban centers and congested areas, bypassing traffic.
  • Cargo Delivery: Drones with VTOL capabilities are seen playing a role in efficient and rapid delivery of goods.
  • Search and Rescue: VTOLs can be invaluable in reaching remote or difficult terrain for rescue operations.
  • Other Applications: Military, law enforcement, and leisure activities are also potential areas for VTOL use.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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