Erickson, the manufacturer and operator of the S-64 Air Crane helicopter, has announced a new venture with Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company. They intend to develop a new “pilot optional nighttime firefighting solution”, integrating Sikorsky’s MATRIX™ Technology into a digitally enabled fire management system never-before used in night firefighting. Erickson said it will enhance cockpit awareness and flight crew safety during day and night operations.
We have asked Erickson for more information, but it sounds like it could operate with or without a pilot on board, in other words, remotely piloted or autonomous.
Sikorsky’s description of MATRIX:
Systems intelligence that will give operators the confidence to fly their large rotorcraft safely, reliably and affordably as autonomous or optionally piloted aircraft.
Air Cranes, which are sometimes referred to as helitankers, can carry up to 2,650 gallons of water.
A new Air Crane model
Erickson also announced a new production line of the legacy Air Crane helicopter, introducing the S-64F+.
The upgraded model will include composite main rotor blades, an enhanced cockpit and flight control system, an improved water cannon, and what the company calls a modern engine enhancing range and fuel efficiency.