By Mary Grady , Contributing editor
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 in Santa Ana, 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 1000 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.