Electric propulsion solutions provider magniX has powered the first fully-electric helicopter flight between airfields, in partnership with Tier 1 Engineering.
The modified electric Robinson 44 (eR44) helicopter powered with a magniX magni250 Electric Propulsion Unit (EPU) made the historic journey from Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport to Palm Springs International Airport on 29 October 2022, in a flight that lasted approximately 20 minutes.
The magniX EPU was retrofitted into the helicopter together with a battery system developed by Tier 1 Engineering, specialists in the design and development of electric aircraft.
Tier 1 Engineering is developing the magniX-powered eR44 for Lung Biotechnology PBC, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics Corporation, a biotechnology company dedicated to addressing the shortage of transplantable organs in the US. The eR44 is designed to deliver human and manufactured organs for transplant with zero carbon emissions at the point of use.
“Building from our first flight of the eR44 helicopter last June, the successfully completed point-to-point flight takes us a step closer to the sustainable transport of life-saving organs,” said Nuno Taborda, CEO of magniX. “magniX is excited to be part of an initiative that will positively affect those in need of urgent medical care. This is only the start of the applications for electric helicopters, which have a bright future as low-cost, carbon-free, reliable alternatives to combustion engine models.”
This point-to-point flight of an electric rotary aircraft represents the latest first for magniX. Since December 2019, the electric solutions company has also provided the technology to power a number of first flights, including that of Harbour Air’s eBeaver, a Cessna eCaravan and Eviation’s all-electric commuter aircraft, Alice.
Tier 1 Engineering is currently working with the FAA on the eR44 project to obtain a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), and Lung Biotechnology PBC plans to acquire a fleet of sustainable aircraft to transport transplant organs.
“We are committed to charting a new path forward for the zero-carbon delivery of life-saving organs,” said Dr. Martine Rothblatt, one of the helicopter’s pilots and CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation. “Saturday’s point-to-point flight proves that the technology necessary for our mission is already here, as we actively work with the FAA to certify the eR44 helicopter.”
“Together we achieved an incredible outcome for the world’s first airport-to-airport cross-country all-electric helicopter flight,” said Glen Dromgoole, President of Tier 1 Engineering. “magniX has again demonstrated the reliability and power of its electric propulsion units, and we’re proud to continue this journey to create sustainable options for organ donation and, ultimately, help save lives.”