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The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center (AHMEC) will present its Annual Achievement Award for innovation in rotary-wing flight at its annual Gala fundraiser on April 27, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. This year’s recipients are Dr. Martine Rothblatt, chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics, and Tier 1 Engineering for their electric-powered Robinson R44 helicopter.
Piloted by Captain Ric Webb of OC Helicopters and converted by Tier 1 Engineering and LungBioTechnology, the innovative aircraft, technically known as an Electrically-Powered Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft for Organ Delivery (EPSAROD), set the Guinness World Record for Farthest Flight for an Electric Helicopter in December 2018. Achieving a 30-nautical-mile flight to 800 feet altitude with an average speed of 80 knots, the manned helicopter uses battery power for vertical takeoff, cruise and landing.
“We selected the R44 helicopter aircraft for this project as it has a heavy 450-pound internal combustion engine,” said Glen Dromgoole, founder of Tier 1 Engineering. “We removed the Lycoming engine, installed dual electric motors and a reduction gearbox to interface with the existing drivetrain. The retrofit with electric motors, weighing 100 pounds, provided useful load for batteries. A series of 11 battery modules weighing 1100 pounds completely powered the aircraft. The flight controls and drive train were unchanged from that of a Robinson R44, although a digital cockpit display was added for the engine as well as for data logging. No changes were made to drive train or flight control system.”