Tier 1 Engineering
Santa Ana, California, USA
The Tier 1 Robinson R44 electric helicopter was built under contract from Lung Biotechnology PBC as an Electrically-Powered Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft for Organ Delivery (EPSAROD). The idea is that the Tier 1 will be able to quickly transport organs to those that need them at nearby hospitals.
The modification of a standard Robinson R44 took six months with Tier 1's nine-person team. The team designed and integrated all of the vehicle’s sub-systems, which included 1100 lb (500 kg) of Brammo Lithium Polymer batteries, twin electric motors and a control system from Rinehart Motion Systems. According to the Tier 1 press release, the helicopter...
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 flight on September 21, 2016 lasted for five minutes at 400 ft (120 m) and 80 kt (148 km/h), and landing with 80% of its reserve power. With better batteries, the Tier 1 Robinson R44 will be expected to fly for 150 minutes and lift a payload of 600 lb (272 kg).
On December 7, 2018, Tier 1’s Robinson 44 set the record for the farthest distance traveled by an electric helicopter. The vehicle covered over 30 nm (55 km) at an average speed of 80 kt (148 km/h) at the Los Alamitos Army Airfield under a special airworthiness certificate issued by the FAA. This has set a Guinness World Record.
A second generation model was flown on July 26 2021, and this model notably featured a a battery pack that was lighter than the previous design by 300 lb (135 kg) and performed with the same level of power and endurance. On December 7, 2021 Tier1 announced its partnership with magniX in the development of an electric motor for the R44, which is planned to be fully integrated into the Robinson by the end of 2021. The third generation of Tier 1's Robinson should be flown in early 2022, according to the company's estimates.
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- Website: Tier 1
- Video: Historic battery-powered helicopter flight at Los Alamitos Army Airfield, Tier 1 Engineering, September 30, 2016
- Article: Tier 1 Engineering Accomplishes Historic Battery-Powered Full-Size Helicopter Flight At Los Alamitos Army Airfield, Cision PR Newswire, September 30, 2016
- Article: A First Electric Helicopter with a Humanitarian Mission, Sustainable Skies, October 13, 2016
- Video: World Record 30 minute 800 feet Electric Helicopter Flight, Martine Rothblatt, February 26, 2017
- Video: Lung Bioengineering: LB-1 EVLP Clinical Trial, Lung Bioengineering, April 20, 2017
- Article: Electric helicopter sets Guinness World Record, Vertical, December 11, 2018
- Article: Electric VTOL for Organs on Demand, Vertiflite, March/April 2019
- Article: Tier 1 Engineering Reveals Its Second Battery-Electric Robinson R44 Helicopter, Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2021
- Article: Tier 1 Teams with magniX for New e-R44, Vertiflite, Jan/Feb 2022