Sikorsky has entered the urban air mobility segment with a campaign aimed at collaborating with other companies to develop technologies and infrastructure needed to make intra-city air taxis a reality.

The effort, announced by Sikorsky at HAI Heli-Expo in Atlanta on 4 March, includes plans to partner with Otis Elevator Company and with The Spaceship Company, which manufactures aircraft and spaceships for Virgin Galactic.

Sikorsky's plan does not include a specific air vehicle concept, but rather addresses the need to develop complex technologies that air taxi concepts require.

"We are introducing a new dimension of the conversation," says Sikorsky's disruptive technologies lead Jonathan Hartman. "We think the conversation around the… mobility system has not been discussed enough in detail."

"This infrastructure piece is what we need to focus on now," Hartman adds.

In announcing its campaign, Sikorsky released a video describing urban air mobility as capable of revolutionising intra-city. Sikorsky will help develop technologies "alongside other mobility leaders" like Otis and Spaceship Company, it says.

Sikorsky parent Lockheed Martin.

Otis already has a presence in cities worldwide, with its elevators carrying some two billion people daily, while the Spaceship Company has established itself as a leader in designing, building and testing advanced air vehicles, says the video.

"Expanding this conversation outside the aviation industry is important," Hartman says.

Sikorsky brings to the partnership its long history of helicopter expertise and new autonomous flight technology it calls MATRIX, says Hartman.

Sikorsky has been testing MATRIX for six years on an S-76B helicopter and has helped develop automated and autonomous systems in partnership with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the company says.

Technologies like MATRIX have "the opportunity to solve some safety issues and increase reliability", Hartman says.

"It's an announcement of a beginning. It's us putting our flag in the ground," Hartman says of Sikorsky's effort. "We are looking forward to continue being an active and visible participant in this ongoing conversation."

Several aircraft manufactures are developing electric urban air taxis, many of which use tilting, ducted fans for lift and propulsion.

Airbus Helicopters, for instance, is developing its CityAirbus electric-powered urban air taxi, Boeing is developing an electric "autonomous passenger air vehicle" and Bell Helicopter is working on a hybrid-electric design as part of its Nexus programme.

Several years ago, Sikorsky developed an electric-powered version of a Schweizer S-300C light helicopter, part of a project called Firefly.

Source: Flight International