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Sikorsky HEX 2-Rotor Tiltwing (technology demonstrator)

Sikorsky Hex hybrid-electric passenger VTOL concept design aircraft

 

HEX 2-Rotor Tiltwing (technology demonstrator)
Sikorsky
Stratford, Connecticut, USA
www.lockheedmartin.com/sikorsky

Founded on March 5, 1923, Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, is an American aircraft manufacturer based in Stratford, Connecticut, USA. Sikorsky was established by aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky and was among the first companies in the world to manufacture helicopters for civilian and military use. United Technologies Corporation purchased Sikorsky in 1929 and then in November 2015, Sikorsky was sold to Lockheed Martin. (Image credit: Sikorsky)

March 2023 announcement of HEX aircraft
On March 8 at Heli-Expo 2023 (March 6-9, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA), Sikorsky announced the Sikorsky Innovations rapid prototyping group will design and make what they have named the Hybrid-Electric Demonstrator (HEX), a fully-autonomous passenger hybrid-electric aircraft technology demonstrator. At the time, Sikorsky had not revealed if the aircraft will be a hybrid-electric helicopter or if the aircraft will be a clean-sheet design airframe made specifically for advanced air mobility. The aircraft will use Sikorsky’s Matrix™ autonomy flight control system and Sikorsky will design, build and system integrate the aircraft. Sikorsky has developed and extensively tested the Matrix™ autonomy system over the last decade. A Sikorsky S-76B luxury helicopter was modified specifically to test and fine tune the Matrix™ technology autonomy system and the helicopter was called the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA).

The HEX technology demonstrator aircraft will be powered by a General Electric (GE) CT7 turboshaft engine with a 1 MW-class generator with associated power electronics. The range of the aircraft is expected to be over 575 miles (925 km) and have a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of more than 7,000 lb (3,175 kg). The autonomous system, how it is powered, the range and the MTOW are the only specifications revealed to the public during Heli-Expo 2023.

The MATRIX™ technology autonomy system is an aircraft autonomy system used for both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft and is designed for flight safety, reliability and efficiency and includes the following abilities:

  • Executes complex missions in low altitude, obstacle-rich environments or in degraded, uncertain conditions
  • Improves system reliability through multi-level contingency management
  • Reduces lifecycle cost and operating cost per flight hour
  • Platform agnostic design supports multiple vehicles enabling mission tailoring

The Sikorsky Innovations rapid prototyping group will be in charge of the HEX helicopter technology demonstrator program and is headed by Director Igor Cherepinsky. The team will responsible to design, build and integrate the MATRIX™ autonomy flight control system into the hybrid-electric passenger aircraft. The prototype will be a flying testbed to evaluate large aircraft design, novel propulsion, control architectures for sustained hover and more.

Sikorsky envisions to create an entire family of scalable autonomous hybrid-electric aircraft for passenger and air cargo transportation missions. The company has also revealed they plan to make these aircraft for both civilian and military use.

Sikorsky revealed three concept designs for their Hybrid-Electric Demonstrator (HEX) autonomous passenger VTOL aircraft program on February 24 at Heli-Expo 2024 in Anaheim, California, USA

Sikorsky revealed three concept designs for their Hybrid-Electric Demonstrator (HEX) autonomous passenger VTOL aircraft program on February 24 at Heli-Expo 2024 in Anaheim, California, USA

February 2024 HEX hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft concept designs revealed
On February 24 at Heli-Expo 2024 in Anaheim, California, USA, Sikorsky revealed three concept designs for their Hybrid-Electric Demonstrator (HEX) autonomous passenger VTOL aircraft program. The aircraft will not have an option to be piloted manually inside the aircraft. The aircraft will have a turboshaft engine with a one-megawatt class generator and associated power electronics developed by GE and flight and motor controls under Sikorsky's Matrix autonomy management system program.

HEX 2-Rotor Tiltwing autonomous passenger hybrid-electric VTOL technology demonstrator aircraft
The HEX 2-Rotor Tiltwing is an autonomous passenger hybrid-electric VTOL technology demonstrator aircraft. While the current graphics on this web page are artist conceptions for the HEX aircraft, the Vertical Flight Society was advised at Heli-Expo 2024 that Sikorsky Innovations is in the process of building three HEX 2-Rotor Tiltwing technology demonstrator aircraft. In addition, Sikorsky also stated they are building a non-flying test rig for propulsion system testing.

While the number of passengers the aircraft will hold and the cruise speed was not revealed during Heli-Expo 2024, the range of the aircraft is planned to be over 575 miles (925 km) with a calculated maximum takeoff weight of 9,000 lb (4,082 kg). The aircraft has two rotor and two electric motors attached to its one high main tilt-wing. Wings on any hybrid-electric or electric VTOL aircraft will increase the range of the aircraft. The aircraft can be used for intercity travel, intracity travel, rural travel, ship-to-shore missions and flying to remote locations. The fuselage is made from carbon fiber composite for a high strength to low weight ratio. The aircraft has one convention T-tail with retractable tricycle wheeled landing gear.

There are redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft providing safety through redundancy for its passengers or cargo. Having multiple redundant systems on any aircraft decreases having any single point of failure. The company predicts this aircraft architecture will provide a quieter flight experience, save on production and operating costs, provide sustainable flight, reduce mechanical complexity and improve flight safety.

Future
Sikorsky reported they have already successfully flown sub-scale proof of concept VTOL aircraft. The company intends to fly the HEX technology demonstrator in 2027, depending on propulsion system test bed (PSTB) lessons learned. The company foresees their next-gen family of hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft to be used for advanced air mobility (AAM), air cargo and UAS (unmanned air systems) for commercial and military applications.

Sikorsky's HEX hybrid-electric VTOL concept design aircraft parked

Sikorsky's HEX hybrid-electric VTOL concept design aircraft parked

Specifications:

  • Aircraft type: HEX 2-Rotor Tiltwing autonomous hybrid-electric passenger VTOL technology demonstrator aircraft
  • Piloting: Autonomous (has no pilot optional controls inside the cockpit)
  • Capacity: Unknown
  • Cruise speed: Unknown
  • Range: Over 575 miles (925 km)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 9,000 lb (4,082 kg)
  • Propellers: 2 rotors
  • Electric motors: 2 electric motors
  • Power source: Hybrid-electric power source
  • Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
  • Window: Canopy over cockpit
  • Wings: 1 high main tiltwing
  • Tail: 1 conventional T-tail
  • Landing gear: Retractable tricycle wheeled landing gear
  • Safety features: There are redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft providing safety through redundancy for its passengers or cargo. Having multiple redundant systems on any aircraft decreases having any single point of failure.

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