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Battery-powered manned helicopter flies for the first time

PUBLISHED: 12:11 26 October 2016 | UPDATED: 12:26 26 October 2016

The electric R44's batteries are carried in an underslung palette

The electric R44's batteries are carried in an underslung palette


Electric flight gets a boost by California-based Tier 1 Engineering’s test flights of the Robinson R44 chopper in late September

The battery-powered Robinson helicopter was airborne at Los Alamitos Army Airfield for five minutes, reaching 400ft and 80kt.

The modified R44 is equipped with 700V, 100Ah Brammo lithium polymer batteries and two Rinehart Motion Systems three-phase permanent magnet synchronous electric motors stacked together to provide redundancy in the event of a motor failure.

The range of the experimental prototype is 30nm, endurance twenty minutes, but Tier 1’s goal is to develop a battery-powered rotorcraft with a 600lb payload.

The company is developing the craft 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.


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