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Aerospace giant Sikorsky plans to develop a family of hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft to target military and commercial markets, the company’s leadership team told attendees at HAI Heli-Expo 2023 in Atlanta.
Sikorsky previously shared its plans to enter the advanced air mobility (AAM) race with Vertical in December 2022, with Sikorsky Innovations director Igor Cherepinsky stating at the time that its new hybrid-electric demonstrator (HEX) will “be our first foray into what the next generation of commercial aircraft will look like.”
“We have started the final build of our hybrid-electric demonstrator,” Cherepinsky announced at Heli-Expo. He added the vehicle will have a dual use for exploring both military and commercial applications for Sikorsky’s next-generation hybrid-electric aircraft.
With a gross weight of up to 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms), the demonstrator is intended to be a fully autonomous testbed, used to evaluate novel propulsion systems and control architectures for sustained hover and long-range flights.
“It’s really the next chapter of Sikorsky’s history,” Cherepinsky said. “We are looking at a machine that can hover very efficiently, but also have fairly long ranges.”
While other aircraft in the eVTOL space are targeting ranges in the area of 130 nautical miles (150 miles) like Joby Aviation to 250 nautical miles (287 mi) like Beta Technologies, Sikorsky’s hybrid eVTOL aircraft is looking at ranges in the area of 500 nautical miles (575 mi).
To achieve this target, Sikorsky is working with long-time partner GE Aerospace, which will supply its CT7 turboshaft engine, combined with a one-megawatt turbogenerator, to power the demonstrator.
Amy Gowder, president and CEO of defense and systems at GE Aerospace, called the CT7 engine a workhorse that has been used in various environments, accumulating more than 100 million flight hours.
“In the hybrid-electric space, GE has been selected by other customers to help mature this technology,” Gowder said. This includes NASA and the U.S. Army. ”We definitely see this technology as applicable to both military and commercial customers.”
The Lockheed Martin company said the airframe and electric motors for its hybrid-electric demonstrator (HEX) will be integrated with the company’s Matrix autonomy flight control system, which has been developed and tested extensively over the last decade.