First Flight For Battery-Powered Helicopter


Tier 1 Engineering has flown a battery-powered manned helicopter for a five-minute cruise flight, the company recently announced. The aircraft flew to 400 feet altitude and reached a peak speed of 80 knots during its first flight, which took place in late September in Costa Mesa, California. “I’m very pleased to achieve this historic breakthrough in aviation,” said Glen Dromgoole, Tier 1 president. “Never before has a conventional manned helicopter performed a vertical takeoff, cruise, and landing solely on battery power.” The aircraft carried 1100 pounds of Brammo lithium-polymer batteries, which powered twin electric motors and a motion control system from Rinehart Motion Systems. The five-minute flight drained about 20 percent of the available battery energy, the company said.

The company is developing the aircraft for Lung Biotechnology PBC, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, which intends to produce an electric-powered helicopter for distributing manufactured transplant organs to hospitals, with much less noise and carbon footprint than current technology. Sikorsky also has an electric-powered helicopter in the works, the Firefly, but it has not yet achieved a manned flight. Pascal Chretien of France flew his own electric-powered helicopter design untethered for two minutes and 10 seconds in 2011. He flew an additional 29 flights, but always in hover mode. He never achieved level flight.