Silent flight: Sikorsky’s electric helicopter

An eco-friendly all-electric helicopter could one day change the face of urban transportation

Hartman is confident that with improvements in battery technology, weight will be reduced and reliability improved significantly allowing electric helicopters to compete with conventional aircraft. Hartman added that in the shorter term electric helicopters could have some interesting applications using endurances of between half-an-hour and an hour. ’My director has a fantastic vision. He would love to see a helicopter fly on a two-seat tour of the Grand Canyon. You and the pilot, no shaking, you don’t even have to wear headphones – you just enjoy the view. You can imagine something similar for applications in urban transportation.’

The Firefly project is undergoing component bench testing and is scheduled to move to ground testing and first flight early next year. It seems inevitable that at some point full-scale electric rotorcraft will be seen in our skies, but just when that will happen is anyone’s guess. ’I would need a crystal ball to tell you,’ said Hartman. ’But if the trajectory continues as it is, the next five to 10 years are going to be very interesting.’

The specs

Airframe: converted S-300C
System efficiency: 89 per cent during cruise, 91 per cent maximum power efficiency
Power: 190hp permanent magnet electric motor
Endurance: 15min
Lithium-ion battery: 150, 45Ah lithium-ion cells
Maximum velocity: 79knots