Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, is producing a HeVTOL (HEX) prototype with a maximum gross weight of more than 7,000 lbs, reports a press release. The uncrewed aircraft is to serve as a flying test-bed to evaluate large aircraft design, innovative propulsion systems and sustained hover capabilities, with a range of over 500 miles.

Paul Lemmo, President of Sikorsky, commented, “Sikorsky’s HEX will provide critical insights into the potential 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.”

For this HEX project, GE Aerospace is to offer a CT7 turboshaft engine combined with a 1MW-class generator and associated power electronics, building on hybrid electric propulsion systems being developed by GE Aerospace for both NASA and the U.S. Army.

Amy Gowder, President and CEO of Defence & Systems at GE Aerospace, added, “We are committed to developing hybrid electric propulsion systems that save fuel and optimise 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.”

Igor Cherepinsky

The HEX program will be lead by its director, Igor Cherepinsky. The team will design, build and integrate the airframe and electric motors with the company’s MATRIX™ autonomy flight control system.

Depending on insights gained from this flight test program, HEX could lead to a family of e/VTOL aircraft scaled to carry passengers and payload for both military and commercial applications. The MATRIX, tested extensively over the past decade, will control flight aboard the craft. The software, hardware and sensors that comprise the system have already 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.

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(Top image: Paul Lemmo, Sikorsky President and Amy Gowder, President and CEO of Defence & Systems at GE Aerospace announce Long-Range Hybrid-Electric VTOL Demonstrator – credit: Lockheed Martin)