Electric helicopter creators to accept AHMEC award

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.

The team of the record-setting electric R44 helicopter. Dr. Martine Rothblatt Photo
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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.”

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Although the idea of an electric helicopter isn’t new, it was Rothblatt’s young daughter who in 1994 provided the impetus for the team’s R44 when she was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare life-threatening condition. Rothblatt immersed herself in learning everything possible about her child’s prognosis, refusing to accept a negative outcome and becoming a proponent of medical and pharmaceutical innovation. She created the PPH Cure Foundation and United Therapeutics, a biotechnology company that furthers PAH research.

Rothblatt and Dromgoole will attend AHMEC’s Gala to accept their awards. The theme this year will be “A Night in Tuscany Celebrating Leonardo da Vinci.” Malvern’s Desmond Hotel will once again present creative cocktails followed by a delectable Tuscany-themed dinner. Leonardo himself will make an appearance, and other fun, interesting activities will ensue.

Tickets cost $150.00 per person and $1,250.00 for a table of 10. See the website at http://americanhelicopter.museum/events/gala-main to purchase tickets and for more information.

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