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US Air Force awards $37M to Piasecki Aircraft to develop next-generation VTOLs and hydrogen propulsion technologies

Piasecki Aircraft Corporation has been awarded a $37-million multi-year contract by AFWERX, the Air Force’s innovation arm in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), as part of its Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) program. The award 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 hydrogen fuel cell propulsion technologies for VTOL and other aviation applications.


Piasecki Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) tilt-duct vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial system (UAS)

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 US 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.

—John Piasecki, CEO of Piasecki Aircraft

The funding will support Piasecki R&D programs, including:

  • 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 US 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 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.

Higher temperature fuel cells are a critical technology to delivering improvements in specific power and unlocking truly clean propulsion for larger fixed wing aircraft, but they will also enable rotorcraft and VTOL applications. Working together on this project with a company of Piasecki’s heritage and expertise in rotorcraft, with US Air Force backing, is a hugely exciting step in delivering on our vision of hydrogen-electric engines in every aircraft.

—Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO, ZeroAvia

Earlier this year, Piasecki announced that it acquired the former Lockheed Martin Sikorsky Heliplex facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and will transform the 219,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility into an advanced R&D and testing center for VTOL and UAS vehicles. The facility—which includes engineering, assembly, paint and finishing, as well as a flight test and delivery center—is expected to attract about 400 workers by 2028.

Founded in 1955, Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) is a research and development business specializing in design, fabrication and flight testing of experimental rotorcraft and unmanned air vehicles. The company has developed and flown more than 25 advanced VTOL and UAV aircraft to date.

Customers include the US Air Force Research Lab and AFWERX; the US Army Futures Command Aviation and Missile Center and Medical R&D Command; NAVAIR; DARPA; and SOCOM; as well as leading OEMs such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing.



It looks like something drawn by an AI, or a kid with a load of Airfix bits left over from various kits and crashes.


Piasecki always thinks outside the box. In 1945, Frank Piasecki invented the “Flying Banana”.
Of course, this eventually led to the Boeing Vertol Tandem Rotor Helicopters, e.g. CH46, CH47, etc. Briefly worked at Boeing Vertol in Pennsylvania, which originally was the Vertol Aircraft Corporation (and formerly Piasecki Helicopter company).


Good link marvelous old pictures

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