Civil Aviation
Tier 1 Engineering achieves first flight of battery-powered manned helicopter
Tier 1 Engineering achieves first flight of battery-powered manned helicopter
© Tier 1 Engineering

| Staff writer 375 mots

Tier 1 Engineering achieves first flight of battery-powered manned helicopter

Tier 1 Engineering announced today that its battery-powered manned helicopter programme achieved a successful first hover on 13th September, followed by a first hover taxi the following day and a record five-minute cruise flight to 400 feet altitude with a peak speed of 80 knots on 21st September. The helicopter is a modified Robinson R44 piloted by Captain Ric Webb of OC Helicopters.

The flights took place at the Los Alamitos Army Airfield under a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category. Tier 1 Engineering is working under contract from Lung Biotechnology PBC to produce an Electrically-Powered Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft for Organ Delivery (EPSAROD).

The Tier 1 Engineering team designed and integrated all of the helicopter sub-systems, which included 1,100lbs of Brammo Lithium Polymer batteries, twin electric motors and a control system from Rinehart Motion Systems.  The historic five-minute flight on September 21st drained approximately 20% of the battery energy.

The helicopter had a gross weight of 2,500lbs and a basic empty weight of 1250lbs.  The flight controls and drive train were unchanged from that of a Robinson R44, although a digital cockpit display was added for pilot management of torque and power, as well as for data logging.

The range of the proof-of-concept helicopter is estimated at 20 minutes or approximately 30 nautical miles.  Tier 1 Engineering expects to improve using higher energy density batteries, a more efficient electrical drive system, and ultimately a more aerodynamic airframe.

There are two three-phase permanent magnet synchronous motors. The motors are stacked together and provide redundancy in the event of a motor failure.

The purpose of the aircraft is to demonstrate the feasibility of battery-powered VTOL and cruise for a manned helicopter.  Semi-autonomous avionics, navigation and controls will be implemented later in the EPSAROD development programme.

The mission specification for the EPSAROD aircraft is to carry two people and three manufactured organs with a total payload weight of 600 pounds for not less than 150 minutes, including a 30 minute reserve.

Lung Biotechnology PBC intends to apply the EPSAROD technology to distributing manufactured organs for transplantation to major hospitals with much less noise and carbon footprint than current technology.

Tier 1 Engineering is an aircraft design and development company with operations in Costa Mesa, California, and Victoria, Australia.

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