Electric Helicopter Flies Record 30 NM (Corrected)

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A modified Robinson R44 designed and built by Tier 1 Engineering has set a Guinness World Record for the farthest distance traveled by an electric-powered helicopter, the company announced this week. The flight launched from the Los Alamitos Army Airfield in California, and covered 30 nautical miles at an average speed of 80 knots, at about 800 feet, last Friday.  The helicopter was flown by Captain Ric Webb of OC Helicopters. Tier 1 said it is working on the project under contract from Lung Biotechnology PBC, with the goal to produce an electric-powered semi-autonomous rotorcraft that will deliver manufactured organs for transplantation to hospitals with less noise and fuel consumption than current technology. 

The company first flew the aircraft in September 2016. Its twin electric motors are powered by 1100 pounds of Brammo Lithium Polymer batteries, and it’s controlled with a system from Rinehart Motion Systems. In February 2017, the aircraft set a world record for duration and altitude of a battery-powered helicopter with a 30-minute flight, reaching 800 feet and flying at a peak speed of 80 knots. The program aims to achieve two hours of flight time, plus a 30-minute reserve.

Comments (5)

30 nm?
Somewhere, Lindbergh is nervous.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | December 11, 2018 6:46 PM    Report this comment

Really - on only 100 lb of batteries? That's a four-seat helicopter, so for single-occupant operations it could carry 600 lb of batteries, which would give it 180 nautical miles of range; and as a two-seater it could have 120 nautical miles of range. Label me... impressed. Surprised. A little skeptical.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 12, 2018 7:08 AM    Report this comment

Actually, I find the most impressive part of this story is that there is a company successfully making manufactured human organs for transplant. I think Lung Bio would have more success partnering with one of the many EAV companies like Volocopter or E-Hang, who are much farther along in developing electrically powered flight.

Posted by: John McNamee | December 12, 2018 11:48 AM    Report this comment

Thomas, you're right about the 100 pounds of batteries... there was a typo in the news release. The story has been updated to 1100 pounds.

Posted by: Mary Grady | December 12, 2018 12:58 PM    Report this comment

1100 pounds of batteries for a 30 nm trip? That's even less impressive that I originally thought. As with electric powered fixed wing airplanes, it seems that it makes better sense to do a clean sheet design rather than trying to adapt an existing design (the Robinson helicopter) to electric flight. Or, maybe just partner with Amazon to do autonomous delivery with one of their units.

Posted by: John McNamee | December 12, 2018 4:01 PM    Report this comment

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