Sikorsky Introduces Project Firefly Electric Helicopter Demonstrator
Sikorsky Innovations, the technology development organization of Sikorsky Aircraft, announced that it has developed an all-electric helicopter technology demonstrator. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp..
"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-300C™ 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.
Prominent features of the "Firefly" include: all-electric drive system; safe and efficient high-density energy storage system; and automated monitoring and alert technologies.