Sikorsky Aircraft is preparing an autonomous hybrid-electric vertical-take-off-and-landing (eVTOL) prototype to serve as a flying test-bed for evaluating large aircraft design, new propulsion systems, and control architectures for sustained hover, as well as ranges greater than 500 nautical miles. Insights gained from the flight test program, and assessment of the potential uses for the HEX (hybrid-electric demonstrator) could lead to a series of eVTOL vehicles to carry passengers and payload for military and commercial applications.
Working as a partner with the Lockheed Martin subsidiary will be GE Aerospace, which will supply its CT7 turboshaft engine combined with a 1-MW generator and associated power electronics. The propulsion system design will expand on technology developed with NASA and the U.S. Army to power Sikorsky helicopters.
According to Sikorsky president Paul Lemmo, “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.”
The HEX will be designed and built by Sikorsky’s Innovation team, and then will integrate the company’s established MATRIX flight control system. MATRIX has been tested previously controlling U.S. military helicopters.
MATRIX is an “enabling technology for optionally piloted flight” by rotary and fixed-wing aircraft – with or without humans on board. “The technology combines software and hardware components to enable autonomous flight in obstacle-rich environments,” according to Lockheed.