Erickson to integrate Sikorsky MATRIX for next-gen firefighting
Erickson Inc. and Sikorsky today at Heli-Expo in Anaheim announced a development agreement aimed at providing next-generation technology for helicopter operators involved with aerial firefighting. Specifically, Erickson plans to integrate Sikorsky’s MATRIX technology into its S-64 Air Crane helicopter platform to enable what it describes as a digitally enabled fire management system never-before used in night firefighting.
The original equipment manufacturer of the S-64 since 1994, Erickson on January 28 (also at Heli-Expo) unveiled plans for bringing a new production line of the legacy Air Crane to the market, as the S-64F+. The company expects to introduce the S-64F+ as a firefighting platform for the future, which will include Sikorsky’s MATRIX technology.
The S-64F+ will also include a modern engine to enhance range and fuel efficiency; new composite main rotor blades; improved water cannon; and an enhanced cockpit and flight control system, which again ties to the inclusion of MATRIX.
Sikorsky’s MATRIX program is focused on developing systems for autonomous or optionally piloted aircraft in flight, targeting large rotorcraft. It is currently integrated on a Black Hawk helicopter flying out of Florida, helping to augment a two-person crew. MATRIX could eventually help operators fly critical single-pilot missions or even unmanned missions in extremely hazardous conditions.
Sikorsky explains the technology combines software and hardware components, enabling autonomous, reliable mission execution in obstacle-rich environments. Ultimately, MATRIX will enhance cockpit awareness and flight crew safety during day and night operations, including its goal to have MATRIX serve as a safe alternative to night vision goggles.
“We are pleased to be working on this important initiative with Sikorsky who we have a long-time history with,” said Doug Kitani, CEO, Erickson. “Since adopting care of the S-64 global fleet in 1994, Erickson has continuously modernized the platform to support critical missions.”