What Are Helicopter Cranes Used For?

What Are Helicopter Cranes Used For?

As the world evolves, industries are continually faced with new challenges, and they must adapt to meet these challenges head-on. One such solution is the helicopter crane, a versatile and powerful tool that can perform tasks previously thought impossible.

This article explores the different uses for helicopter cranes, such as the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe, and the Mil Mi-10.

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The evolution of helicopter cranes

Helicopter cranes, also known as aerial cranes, flying cranes, or heavy-lift helicopters, are specially designed to carry heavy loads that traditional ground-based cranes cannot handle. They provide unparalleled flexibility and agility, allowing them to be deployed in areas with difficult access, such as remote construction sites, disaster zones, and mountainous regions.

Notable helicopter cranes include the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, which first took flight in 1962, and its military counterpart, the Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe. The Mil Mi-10, a Soviet-designed helicopter crane, joined the scene in 1962, demonstrating the global interest in this technology.

Uses of helicopter cranes

Helicopter cranes have a wide range of applications, and their versatility has made them indispensable in several industries. Here are some of the most common uses:


Helicopter cranes are invaluable in the construction industry, especially for projects in remote or hard-to-reach locations. They can transport heavy machinery, prefabricated components, and construction materials to sites where ground-based cranes would be impractical or impossible to deploy.

For example, the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane has been used to transport large air conditioning units to the tops of skyscrapers, eliminating the need for complex and costly ground-based crane operations.

Logging industry

In the logging industry, helicopter cranes are used to remove trees in environmentally sensitive areas without causing damage to the surrounding ecosystem. They can quickly and efficiently transport timber from remote locations to designated processing sites, reducing the need for extensive road construction and minimizing the environmental impact.

Power line construction and maintenance

Helicopter cranes are essential in constructing and maintaining power lines, especially in remote or mountainous regions.

They can transport pylons, transformers, and other heavy equipment to the installation site, reducing the time and cost of building new power lines.

Additionally, they can help perform maintenance tasks, such as replacing damaged components, without the need for extensive ground-based support.

S-64 Skycrane was used in the construction of a power transmission line in a remote area of Southern California. As per Erickson Incorporated, “lifting nearly 20,000 pounds at a time, the helicopter crane was able to do what would have taken road crews and land cranes weeks or months.”

Search and rescue operations

In search and rescue missions, helicopter cranes can be used to lift and transport heavy equipment, vehicles, and personnel to disaster-stricken areas. They can also be used to evacuate injured or stranded individuals in locations that are difficult to access by land.


Helicopter cranes play a crucial role in aerial firefighting, where they can carry large amounts of water or fire retardant chemicals to extinguish wildfires. The Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, for example, can carry up to 2,650 gallons (10,031 liters) of water in its specialized firefighting configuration, allowing it to quickly and effectively douse flames in hard-to-reach locations.

Military operations

Military forces around the world rely on helicopter cranes for various missions. These helicopters can transport heavy equipment, vehicles, and personnel to remote or hard-to-reach locations, enabling rapid deployment and extraction of troops. They can also be used for humanitarian relief efforts in disaster-stricken areas, delivering supplies and aid to those in need.

Infrastructure installation and maintenance

Helicopter cranes are essential for installing and maintaining infrastructure in challenging environments, such as wind turbines, communication towers, and bridges. They can lift and position heavy components with precision, reducing the need for ground-based support and minimizing the impact on the surrounding area.

Oil and gas industry

In the oil and gas industry, helicopter cranes are used to transport heavy equipment, such as drilling rigs and pipelines, to offshore platforms or remote drilling sites. They can also assist in the maintenance of these installations, carrying out tasks that would be challenging or impossible for ground-based cranes.

Recovery of spacecraft and satellite capsules from sea

Helicopter cranes have played a role in space exploration, particularly in the recovery of spacecraft and satellite capsules from the sea after splashdown.

Popular helicopter cranes


Helicopter cranes, such as the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane and Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe have become indispensable tools in various industries due to their versatility, power, and ability to operate in challenging environments.

From construction and logging to search and rescue operations and space exploration, these flying cranes have revolutionized the way we tackle difficult tasks, enabling us to overcome challenges and achieve feats that were once thought to be impossible.