Rotor Technologies Hosts First Public ‘Uncrewed’ Flight


The first public uncrewed flight of Rotor’s R220Y helicopter took place yesterday (Jan. 30) at Nashua (New Hampshire) Airport (KASH). Rotor’s prototype aircraft fly with Cloudpilot, which the manufacturer describes as technology for autonomous flight using satellite and wireless connectivity.

The new Rotor Research & Development Center is located adjacent to the airport on the former campus of Daniel Webster College. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu was the guest of honor for the celebration, telling attendees, “New Hampshire has long been known for our innovative spirit, and today, a new era of aviation was ushered in right here in the Granite State. This is an exciting moment for the future of American-made aircraft!”

Festivities also included the ceremonial naming of Rotor’s R550X prototype, “The Spirit of New Hampshire.” It is based on the four-seat Robinson R44. The R220Y is based on the two-seat Robinson R22. Both Rotor aircraft incorporate remote technology aimed at pilotless flight. Anticipated applications include potentially hazardous missions such as firefighting and agricultural application.

The R220Y took off around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, with about 100 people in attendance, including the governor. The demonstration flight included the full startup procedure, hovering in front of the crowd, turning maneuvers and a descent to landing. Total flight time was approximately three minutes, according to Rotor statement. Rotor CEO Hector Xu said, “Rotor has brought scores of high-tech jobs to New Hampshire from across the United States and intends to add new manufacturing, quality control, sales, and engineering support departments to support the R550X program.”

The R550X is designed to lift a payload of up to 1,212 pounds. It has a flight endurance of more than three hours and a top speed of 150 mph, making it an ideal platform for aerial firefighting, agricultural application and cargo delivery, according to Rotor.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Pretty cool, but not all that remarkable…there have been RC airplanes and helicopters flying for many years, and with the technology that has come along with drones having sensors that make it avoid obstacles, fly autonomous flights, return to it’s takeoff spot and land itself, among other things, it was just a matter of time before it made it’s way into full scale.
    And don’t forget that Wisk flew their demonstrator at Oshkosh last year. It’s just the tip of the iceburg…

  2. Trivia: just down the ramp from the former Terrafugia flying car hangar. Bought out and disappeared by a Chinese company. Good luck guys!

    • At this point, this chopper owner/pilot tends to agree with you, rekabr52 (I suspect we are of the same generation). I remember when elevators required operators “for safety”. When was the last time you rode one that had an attendant that wasn’t a posh affectation? I also remember riding the first escalator in NC as a child. Despite all the mechanical slop, noises, and potentially hazardous moving parts, they proliferated to the point of ubiquity.

      The issues with automated flight is not flight control, it’s dealing with the airspace environment. I’m far more concerned with the proliferation of “drone delivery” UAVs operating in the same airspace that I regularly use.

  3. rekabr52: I took a 20-minute ride last year in Tempe, AZ from the hotel to the airport in a Waymo car. It was harmless, on time, and after a few minutes, I got bored and made a business cell phone call to help pass the time. Unlike an Uber (rides which can be scary depending on who the driver is) there was no one to talk to; I did miss that interaction. In any event, I would use that form of transportation again. And yes, this crazy old guy looks forward to my first autonomous ride also. The computer has to be a better pilot than I ever was (private, not commercial).

  4. This just sounds like an opportunity to bilk a bunch of wide eyed investors… Kaman converted a couple of their KMAX helicopters to pilot “optional” for the Marines several years ago. They even demonstrated they could carry multiple loads on the hook for delivery to different locations in one flight.

  5. here is a poll on this site regarding training pilots for”autonomous”aircraft….might they be confusing uncrewed vs autonomous??

    I thought autonomous meant the aircraft proceeded along a programmed route without human intervention…why would they need pilots??