First flight of battery-powered Robinson 44

Nov. 01, 2016

Text: Katarina Kuchtova | Photo: tier1engineering.com

The five-minutes-lasting helicopter flight of Robinson R44 powered by lithium battery instead of a classic combustion engine which occurred on 21st September in Costa Mesa, California was a milestone for the Tier 1 Engineering company. The helicopter was piloted by Captain Ric Webb of OC Helicopters.

"I'm very pleased to achieve this historic breakthrough in aviation," said Glen Dromgoole, the President of Tier 1 Engineering. "Never before has a manned helicopter performed a vertical takeoff, cruise and landing solely on battery power, and we are thrilled to have further achieved 400 feet altitude and 80 knots during our first full test flight." One fifth of the battery capacity has been used during the test flight.

The key sponsor of the whole project EPSAROD (produce an Electrically-Powered Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft for Organ Delivery) is the medical company Lung Biotechnology PBC. The goal is to build an aircraft which will be able to carry two people and cargo with total payload of 270 kg and able to fly up to 150 minutes still leaving 30 minute reserve. The company intends to apply the EPSAROD technology for medical transportation of organs to major hospitals with much less noise and carbon footprint than current technology.

The ongoing test program will extend through the year 2017, during which more prototypes will be built.


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