Sikorsky Introduces “Project Firefly” Electric Helicopter Demonstrator
The Firefly Technology Demonstration Aircraft will be unveiled on July 26 at the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) AirVenture exhibition in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA, as part of the world symposium on electric aircraft. The demonstrator will be one of the main attractions in the Aviation Learning Center along with other state-of-the-art commercially available and prototype electric aircraft.
“Our objectives with Project Firefly are to provide a proof of principle concept to validate the benefits of an electrically powered rotorcraft; to develop the technologies to enable the manned flight of that technology, and to drive future development of improved, state-of-the-art ‘green’ technologies and practices,” said Chris Van Buiten, Director of Sikorsky Innovations.
In building the demonstrator, the Innovations team replaced the legacy propulsion system of an S-300CTM helicopter with a high-efficiency, electric motor and digital controller from U.S. Hybrid, coupled with a lithium ion energy storage system from Gaia. Integrated sensors provide real-time aircraft health information to the pilot through a panel integrated interactive LCD monitor. Eagle Aviation Technologies, LLC, executed the custom airframe modifications and assembly of the demonstrator aircraft.
“World fuel reserves are continuing to dwindle as demand increases. This inversion of the supply/demand cycle will increase operating costs of all fuel-based vehicles, especially in the aviation industry. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the commercial helicopter market, where the critical role rotorcraft play could be threatened by spiraling fuel costs,” said Mark Miller, Vice President, Sikorsky Research & Engineering.
“Many of the most significant advancements in aviation have been enabled by transformations in propulsion technology. It is exciting to be at the forefront of the exploration of electric propulsion technology for rotorcraft,” said Miller. “Through the electrical conversion, propulsion efficiency of the aircraft has been increased roughly 300 percent from baseline. Electric propulsion also inherently simplifies the complexity of the propulsion system by reducing the quantity of moving parts, increasing reliability while reducing direct operating costs.”
The demonstrator will feature a 200 horsepower electric motor, a motor controller, a battery system, and cockpit controls. First flight is anticipated later this year, upon completion of ground tests and safety of flight reviews in accordance with Sikorsky standard practice for all aircraft programs.
“With current energy storage technology, payload and endurance will fall short of typical helicopter performance. These values will grow as rapidly maturing technology is integrated on the demonstrator,” Miller added.
Features of the “Firefly” include:
•All-electric drive system
•Safe and efficient high-density energy storage system
•Automated monitoring and alert technologies
•Next generation cockpit displays
Sikorsky Innovations is an agile, networked group of Sikorsky employees and industry teammates dedicated to demonstrating innovative technology solutions to the toughest problems in vertical flight. Sikorsky Innovations is pursuing a broad range of advanced technologies, including the X2 Technology™ demonstrator, aware and adaptive aircraft systems, and optionally piloted aircraft.
The mission of Sikorsky Innovations is to develop and mature the technologies, products and processes that will redefine the future of vertical flight. The organization builds on Sikorsky’s nearly 90 years of innovation and will increase the scope of previous efforts by expanding collaborative arrangements spanning government technology agencies, academic institutions, other UTC facilities, and entrepreneurial businesses where research and product development will take place in cooperation with Sikorsky’s engineers and technicians.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., based in Stratford, Conn., USA, is a world leader in helicopter design, manufacture and service. United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Conn., USA, provides a broad range of high technology products and support services to the aerospace and building systems industries.
This press release contains forward-looking statements concerning potential development and future production of helicopters. Actual results may differ materially from those contemplated as a result of significant risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to changes in government research and development priorities and practices, budget plans or availability of funding; challenges in the design, development, production and support of advanced technologies; as well as other risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to those detailed from time to time in United Technologies Corporation’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.