Piasecki Aircraft Corporation has acquired the former Lockheed Martin Sikorsky Heliplex in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, to transform the plant into an advanced VTOL R&D facility. (Photos: Piasecki Aircraft Corporation)
Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) has purchased the former Lockheed Martin Sikorsky Heliplex facility in Pennsylvania. PiAC intends to convert the facility into an advanced research and development center for next-generation VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, UAS (uncrewed aerial systems), and other technologies. The company's PA-890 helicopter, the world's first hydrogen fuel cell rotorcraft with zero emissions, will be constructed at the facility and undergo testing there. Set to open in the fall, the facility features state-of-the-art amenities for engineering, aircraft assembly, and flight testing.
The acquisition was completed in April, and PiAC hosted the ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 31.
John Piasecki, CEO of PiAC, remarked, “We chose to expand our development capabilities in the Delaware Valley because of its deep roots within the helicopter industry, its highly-talented workforce, and its robust supplier network." According to the announcement, the new R&D center will employ roughly 400 workers by the year 2028.
" It’s incredibly exciting to see a company like Piasecki, a long-time aviation industry innovator, continue their commitment to developing new technologies like the PA-890 hydrogen fuel cell-powered helicopter right here in PA’s sixth district. These advancements have the potential to transform vertical lift flight and help eliminate carbon emissions." – U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania's 6th congressional district
The PA-890 eVTOL aircraft is designed to perform emergency medical services and commercial applications like on-demand logistics and personnel air transport. ZeroAvia is a collaborator of PiAC's, contributing to the development and implementation of its High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Piasecki Aircraft Corporation is also currently conducting research and development for its Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) vehicle. ARES can be operated as a UAS or with a crewed flight module. It is a modular tilt duct VTOL aircraft with a small landing footprint. The company is working with Honeywell on a triplex fly-by-wire flight control system, and they plan to begin flight testing of ARES by the end of 2023.
Piasecki X-49A SpeedHawk
Another focus for R&D at PiAC is a flight control software package called ADAPT (Adaptive Digital Automated Pilotage Technology). ADAPT has the potential to improve safety and performance for both U.S. military and commercial aircraft. The software package "exploits the inherent redundancy of control effectors present in advanced VTOL platforms and modified legacy fleet rotorcraft to automatically allocate control commands between effectors," according to the company, "to respond to aircraft damage or to optimize the control configuration of the aircraft for increased performance, maneuverability, reduced vibration or fatigue loads, or for a weighted combination of these attributes."
Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES)
In August of 2021, Piasecki Aircraft formed a partnership with HyPoint to develop a hydrogen fuel cell system for eVTOLs. The idea for their solution was to provide four times the energy density of existing batteries and twice as much power as existing hydrogen fuel cell systems. The partners also aimed to achieve a 50% reduction in operating costs.