Not long ago, American entrepreneur and President of Lung Biotechnology PBC, Martine Rothblatt, was told her aspiration of converting conventional helicopters to electric power was impossible.
Fast forward to 2018 and not only is it a possibility but it’s also a reality – a reality that has granted Rothblatt along with her "dream team" – Tier 1 Engineering (USA) and test pilot, Captain Ric Webb of OC Helicopters (USA) – an official Guinness World Records title for Farthest flight by an electric helicopter (prototype).
When Rothblatt first conceived the idea – initially, with the purpose to transport re-manufactured lungs to hospitals for transplantation, a separate accomplishment that her company has pioneered - she was unable to find support from any of the major helicopter manufacturers.
But with a career built upon achieving the "impossible", she persevered in the face of challenge and through a referral, was introduced to a brilliant engineer who would agree to take on the project – Glen Dromgoole of Tier 1 Engineering in Santa Ana, California.
Then there was Captain Ric Webb – commercial helicopter pilot with an extensive resume including 25+ years of military service and founder of OC Helicopters in Orange County, CA – whose unmatched experience made him the perfect candidate for the job of test pilot.
For nine months, Rothblatt’s team quietly developed an electric-powered version of a Robinson R44 – the world’s best-selling general aviation helicopter – and in September 2016, their prototype successfully achieved its first hover, air-taxi, and five-minute flight at an altitude of 400 feet and peak speed of 80 knots.
Then, on 7 December 2018, the team was ready to take their prototype to the sky once again, but this time with an official Guinness World Records adjudicator on-site to verify their attempt.
Flying to new heights (literally), the record attempt was a huge success, covering 30 nautical miles at an average speed of 80 knots and an altitude of 800 ft!
Truly a historical moment, the team was presented with a Guinness World Records certificate for their outstanding achievement - one that will be instrumental in bettering our environment, providing hope of a brighter future for our planet.
The team has no intention of slowing down either.
"Could we have gone further? Absolutely," said Webb in a recent article who followed up by adding that the team expects to eclipse this record "dramatically" as early as next year.
They’re now working to improve their original design, with which they have plans to break their current record and pending certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), they hope to have this new technology available to the public as soon as 2020.