Piasecki to Develop Next-Gen VTOLs & Hydrogen Propulsion Tech

The award from the U.S. Air Force enables Piasecki to flight demonstrate its ARES tilt-duct VTOL UAS and hydrogen fuel cell propulsion technologies for VTOL and other aviation applications By Abi Wylie / 29 Nov 2023
Piasecki to Develop Next-Gen VTOLs & Hydrogen Propulsion Tech
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Piasecki Aircraft Corporation has been awarded a $37M multi-year contract by AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation arm in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). 

The award, part of AFRL’s Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) program, will enable Piasecki to flight demonstrate its Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) tilt-duct vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial system (UAS) as well as industry-leading hydrogen fuel cell propulsion technologies for VTOL and other aviation applications.

The two main areas the funding will support are the following Piasecki R&D programs.

Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES):

ARES is a modular multi-mission tilt duct VTOL vehicle that can be operated unmanned (UAS) or with an optional manned flight module. 

ARES is designed with a small landing footprint to enable shipboard and expeditionary operations as well as provide embedded multi-mission C4I, ISR, combat, and logistics support to small distributed combat forces operating over extended distances and in complex terrain. Rapidly-reconfigurable Mission Payload Modules deliver mission flexibility that significantly reduces overall logistics footprint and cost. 

The ARES Demonstration Vehicle was produced in partnership with Lockheed Martin with funding from DARPA. With follow-on funding from the U.S. Air Force and Army, Piasecki and Honeywell are integrating a triplex fly-by-wire flight control system to initiate ARES flight testing by the end of this year.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Propulsion System:

Piasecki is collaborating with ZeroAvia, a leader in hydrogen-electric aviation, to develop and implement its revolutionary High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) hydrogen fuel cell technology for PA-890 and other VTOL applications. 

The PA-890 eVTOL aircraft is expected to be the first zero-emission hydrogen-powered compound helicopter. The slowed-rotor winged helicopter is intended for use in a variety of missions including Emergency Medical Services (EMS), delivery of high-value On-Demand Logistics (ODL), On-Demand Mobility (ODM) personnel air transport, and many other commercial applications across the $40 billion commercial light helicopter market. 

In addition to zero carbon emissions, the PA-890 eVTOL enables up to a 50% reduction in direct operating cost and reduced noise compared with today’s fossil fuel turbine helicopters — and significantly greater range compared with all-electric helicopters.

John Piasecki, CEO of Piasecki Aircraft, said; “The STRATFI program plays a critical role in advancing emerging American technologies and we are thrilled to receive this significant investment. This new funding will allow us to demonstrate ARES’ unique tilt-duct configuration, which enables seamless transition between hover and fixed-wing forward flight — a technological leap that would address critical aerial challenges faced by the U.S. military. 

“The STRATFI test program will also fund the demonstration of zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell propulsion technology for VTOLs, including our forthcoming PA-890 compound helicopter. Demonstration of the PA-890 would be a world-first for electric aviation and would usher in a new era of clean vertical flight. 

“While R&D work on these projects began several years ago, this new funding will rapidly expand our ability to deliver these radically new vehicles to customers and partners across the military and commercial sectors.”

Posted by Abi Wylie Connect & Contact
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