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Sikorsky introduces "Project Firefly," electric helicopter demonstrator

Sikorsky Innovations, the technology development organization of Sikorsky Aircraft, today officially introduced "Project Firefly," an all-electric helicopter technology demonstrator, at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture exhibition. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX).

The Firefly Technology Demonstration Aircraft at EAA is part of the world symposium on electric aircraft. The demonstrator is one of the main attractions in the Aviation Learning Center along with other state-of-the-art commercially available and prototype electric aircraft.

Chris Van Buiten, Director of Sikorsky Innovations, today delivered a "walkaround" briefing of the demonstrator during EAA today. He is scheduled to present details on Project Firefly on Friday during the GE World Symposium on Electric Aircraft, as well as Saturday during a panel discussion on electric aviation and the Sikorsky Firefly demonstrator.

"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," Van Buiten said.

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.

"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 Mark Miller, Vice President, Sikorsky Research & Engineering. "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 190-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

Press release issued by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company on July 29, 2010


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