The helicopter industry has been slow to adopt ‘ electrification of mobility’, but the Californian consulting company Tier 1 Engineering has taken up the challenge.
Tier 1 Engineering and LungBio Technology converted an R44 helicopter to electricity a while back, and just recently achieved a 34.5 miles (30 nautical miles) flight.
Technically called an Electrically-Powered Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft for Organ Delivery (EPSAROD), its flight started at Los Alamitos Army Airfield and lasted over 22 minutes at around 92 mph (80 knots) for an altitude of 800 feet.
The electric helicopter set a Guinness World Record for the farthest helicopter flight powered by electricity.
According to Tier 1 Engineering, “[it] achieved a successful first hover on Tuesday, September 13th, a first hover taxi on Wednesday, September 14th and a record five-minute cruise flight to 400 feet altitude with a peak speed of 80 knots on Wednesday, September 21st. The helicopter was a modified Robinson R44 test piloted by Captain Ric Webb of OC Helicopters.”
The Robinson R44 helicopter swapped its Lycoming IO-540, six cylinder, fuel injected engine for a 67 kWh battery pack of lithium-polymer batteries weighing 1,100 lb (about 500 kilos). To do this, it used a Brammo battery pack, bought by Cummins in 2017.
Two electric motors from the electric specialty and race-car engineering company Rinehart Motion Systems were also included. The company is known for its hybrid control systems for Formula 1.
Reference- Clean Technica, Tier 1 Engineering website, Robinson website