HAI Convention News

Sikorsky Outlines Vision for Urban Air Mobility

 - March 7, 2019, 9:03 AM
Enrico Palermo (l), president of The Spaceship Company, outlines potential future urban mobility operations with Sikorsky Innovations v-p Chris Van Buiten.

Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky wants to be part of the discussion about urban air mobility and released a YouTube video this week that lays out its vision for moving people about in increasingly crowded cities. It depicts a young woman obviously frustrated by moving about the city by crossing busy streets, hailing taxis, and using subways. Eventually, she walks into an elevator that takes her up to a high-rise rooftop, where she climbs aboard an S-76 helicopter.

“You’ll see in the video the decision point for the mobility solution is actually left up to the building and the multimodal infrastructure,” Jonathan Hartman, disruptive technologies lead at Sikorsky Innovations, told AIN. “So the passenger is choosing the destination, and the system is figuring out the best way to get them there.”

Sikorsky isn’t ready to formally say whether it’s getting into the urban air mobility market, but Hartman and the company said it has a vision for the market, and certain technologies that could lend themselves to the airframer someday entering the business. 

Those technologies that Sikorsky has developed or is refining include the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), a Sikorsky S-76B modified as an optionally piloted vehicle demonstrator that the U.S. Army flight-tested last November. The SARA tests included flights controlled from the ground and flown by onboard pilots using a tablet and mouse-like inceptor. Hartman noted the company also has been working on electric propulsion since as far back as 2008, and how it applies to vertical lift with Sikorsky’s rapid prototyping program, Project Firefly.

“So this set of technologies makes us very excited that we can work to bring a better, safer, more affordable, more community-acceptable solution to the future urban airspace,” Hartman said. 

Partners in this endeavor could include companies such as The Spaceship Company and even ones in seemingly disparate businesses such as Otis Elevator, both of which are prominent in the video and, according to Hartman, have a “heritage of innovation and leadership within transportation infrastructure.”

“In our view, urban air mobility and that future solution has the ability to connect destinations in the same way that an elevator first started connecting floors together, allowing builders to look upwards and build skyscrapers in the modern cities we have today,” he said.

In other news at Heli-Expo, Sikorsky said S-92 operators flying to Norway’s North Sea oil rigs will soon be able to receive real-time meteorological information from micro weather stations on destination helidecks through the 2.2 release of the iFly Sikorsky flight performance calculator app. The upgrade comes from recent agreements between MM Aviation in Norway and Outerlink, a subsidiary of Louisiana-based Metro Aviation. MM Aviation’s systems collect and feed weather data to subscribers from sensors installed on 22 North Sea platforms. Outerlink’s satcom system also feeds in-flight weather information into the flight deck. 

Separately, Sikorsky has issued a beta version of iFly Sikorsky for the S-70i Black Hawk.