Eyes in the Sky – Sikorsky’s Innovative ‘Flying Wing’ Drone

Sikorsky, the renowned aircraft manufacturer, is in a race to create a novel ‘flying wing' drone, tailored for a unique Pentagon program. The objective is clear: engineer drones capable of landing on ships and in terrain lacking the necessary runway facilities required by larger, traditional military unmanned aircraft.

Selected as one of nine contenders in the third week of June, Sikorsky is pursuing the Pentagon contract, competing with significant players such as Northrop Grumman and drone manufacturer , who was part of the design team for the Mars Ingenuity helicopter.

During a recent forum hosted by the Business & Industry Association, Sikorsky's lead executive in Stratford provided insights about the project.

“It actually sits on its tail, launches vertically then flips over and flies like a fixed-wing aircraft,” said Paul Lemmo, president of Sikorsky. “It's essentially just a wing — there's no vertical tail or anything.”

The prototype leverages rotors for vertical take-off and landing, then uses these spinning blades to drive air over the wing in flight for both propulsion and additional lift. This technology enables longer flight durations and slower speeds when necessary, a pivotal feature for surveillance missions.

Despite conceptualizing the ‘rotor-blown wing' a decade ago, Sikorsky's commitment to Black Hawk helicopter production and other military projects put the concept on the back burner. However, the company is now revisiting this innovative approach.

Patents were filed in 2015 and 2016, and a small battery-operated model of the proposed aircraft has already been constructed. Currently, engineers are developing a larger, hybrid-electric prototype, seeking approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for test flights.

“We're really excited about this — we see this as fulfilling missions [like] carrying cargo or potentially in an intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance mode,” expressed Lemmo.

Sikorsky's parent company, Lockheed Martin, already produces the Stalker winged drone for the . Despite the Stalker's vertical take-off and landing capability, it possesses limited other abilities, including a top speed under 60 miles per hour and a payload below six pounds.

As the competition progresses, the real challenge, according to Steve Komadina, a project manager with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is to create “an integrated flight vehicle that meets the hard objective of combining [vertical takeoff and landing], long endurance, and large payload while also meeting requirements for shipboard storage and operations.”

Sikorsky's ‘flying wing' concept undoubtedly marks a significant stride toward that challenge.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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