Rotor Applied sciences, Inc., a developer of autonomous vertical takeoff and touchdown (VTOL) plane, has accomplished the primary uncrewed flight take a look at marketing campaign of a full-scale civilian helicopter.
The marketing campaign was flown with two Rotor R220Y autonomous helicopters. The R220Y is an experimental platform primarily based on the favored Robinson R22 two-seat helicopter, with seats, pilot controls, and instrument panel eliminated and all capabilities of the helicopter automated by Rotor’s expertise.
Two R220Ys logged greater than 20 hours of flight time and over 80 hours of engine run-time through the flight marketing campaign. These flights efficiently proved Rotor’s flight management programs, autonomous hover and velocity modes, and vision-based notion programs. The marketing campaign additionally developed the plane’s long-distance flight functionality by way of in-flight testing of long-range radio gear and mobile LTE communication hyperlinks – though all flights had been performed over a restricted radius inside direct line of sight of a floor management station.
“This can be a main milestone towards fully-autonomous flight and testomony to our potential to develop autonomy that will likely be protected and dependable sufficient for utility and passenger operations,” says Rotor Founder and CEO Dr. Hector Xu. “Our AI pilot system is already expert-level at duties like precision flight management and navigation in poor visibility circumstances, and we’re rising its capabilities on daily basis.”
Though no human pilot was onboard throughout take a look at flights, the R220Y at present requires a pilot to remotely management the automobile when the autonomy system shouldn’t be engaged.
“We’re excited to see Robinson helicopters utilized by Rotor as a platform for innovation.” says Robinson Vice President of Operations David Smith concerning the profitable R220Y flight exams. “We imagine that our flight heritage and manufacturing functionality will place Robinson to be a key participant within the subsequent era of VTOL aviation.”
The Subsequent Step
Rotor is commercializing its autonomy expertise with the event of the R550X, an uncrewed utility helicopter primarily based on the Robinson R44 Raven II. The R550X will characteristic a payload capability of 1,212 lbs (550 kg) and greater than three hours of endurance. The R550X is designed to carry out hazardous operations reminiscent of firefighting, crop dusting, development, humanitarian assist, and distant cargo supply with out placing pilot lives in danger.
“We’re bringing the highest-payload civilian uncrewed VTOL obtainable on the earth to the business market,” says Chief Industrial Officer Ben Frank. “We’re taking all of the expertise that we’ve developed on the R220Y and are placing it on an analogous – and much more succesful – platform. We’re working with a set of shut companions to place the R550X into income operation in 2024. No different firm is near performing business operations with an autonomous helicopter of this measurement.”
Past the R550X, Rotor is progressing towards certifying the expertise for passenger flight. Autonomous passenger helicopters have the potential to popularize quick and handy regional transportation, which is simply obtainable to VIPs at present. With the elevated security and effectivity introduced by autonomy, the 200-mile journey between New York and Boston might be accomplished in about 90 minutes with out the necessity to journey by way of congestion.