Rotor Technologies starts production on R550X uncrewed helicopters
December 4, 2023 By Helicopters Staff
Rotor Technologies Inc., a developer of autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, has begun production on the R550X, which the company says is the largest uncrewed civilian helicopter on the market.
Based on the Robinson R44 Raven II, the R550X is designed to lift heavy loads up to 1,200 pounds, or 550 kilograms, with no pilot onboard. The aircraft has a flight time of over 3 hours, a top speed of 150 miles per hour, and long-range VTOL capabilities beyond the reach of drones and eVTOLs, Rotor officials said in a Nov. 30 news release, making it well-suited for cargo, utility, and maritime operations.
“Sensors and digital flight control systems enable the R550X to operate safely and autonomously in a wide range of operating environments – including at night and in limited visibility,” the release said. Additionally, Rotor officials said the aircraft’s software can prevent common causes of helicopter accidents such as inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions (I-IMC), vortex ring state, mast bumping, loss-of-control, and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).
“The R550X is going to bring huge safety and economic benefits to a wide range of helicopter use cases,” said Rotor CEO Hector Xu, “Demonstrating the impact of autonomy in dangerous missions like crop dusting and aerial firefighting is the first step towards our vision for safe and accessible vertical flight.”
The R550X is an experimental-category uncrewed aircraft that is not designed to carry people. Operators can leverage existing FAA rules and regulations to fly the R550X in agricultural, firefighting, inspection, and maritime operations, the release said.
Production of two R550Xs is now underway at the company’s facilities in New Hampshire following the receipt of Letters of Intent (LOIs) from agricultural aircraft operators, who plan to use the aircraft for crop dusting; and the first commercial operations of the R550X are expected to begin in the U.S. in 2024, with international operations to follow.