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Electric Tiltrotor Unveiled

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AgustaWestland has unveiled an unmanned electric tiltrotor technology demonstrator at Heli-Expo, which runs until Thursday in Las Vegas. The aircraft, which features twin rotors powered by independent electric motors, was built in less than six months and has flown a few times, tethered and untethered. The aircraft is entirely electric with no hydraulic system. Although it's a drone, it has what appears to be a handy place for a cockpit up front, but the lack of redundancy in the powerplants (there is no transmission linking the two rotors in case one of the motors fails) likely ensures this aircraft will remain pilotless. Although limited by the battery power they can store, electric aircraft have some advantages over their petroleum-powered counterparts, say AgustaWestland officials.

It was stressed that the electric vehicle has a low noise and heat signature and can fly in conditions that cause trouble for air-breathing aircraft. AgustaWestland CEO Daniele Romiti said tiltrotors are the way of the future for some helicopter applications. "We strongly believe in the tiltrotor concept as the future of high speed rotorcraft flight as it offers much greater speed and range than compound helicopter technology," Romiti said. A hybrid version is envisioned.

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