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Rotor Technologies Inc. began production of the largest uncrewed civilian helicopter on the market. Called R550X, it is developed as a versatile autonomous helicopter designed for multiple missions. The company claims R550X can carry loads of up to 550 kg in diverse weather conditions, including low-visibility scenarios and nighttime conditions.
Rotor CEO Hector Xu said: “The R550X is going to bring huge safety and economic benefits to a wide range of helicopter use cases. 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.”
According to Interesting Engineering, the VTOL has autonomous capabilities to execute tasks independently, and the lack of crew means an increased payload capacity, extended range, and heightened mission flexibility. The R550X uses sensors and digital flight control systems to achieve safe and autonomous operations in many different environments.
Rotor has a human-supervised autonomy system called “Cloudpilot” which oversees R550X piloting services and ensures availability 24/7. Furthermore, the aircraft’s communications gateway can uphold six simultaneous links of different types, minimizing the likelihood of total link loss.
Another advantage is R550X’s flight time which exceeds three hours and a top speed of 241 kph. With long-range VTOL capabilities that surpass those of drones and eVTOLs, it is ideal for challenging cargo, utility, and maritime operations.
The R550X is part of the experimental category of uncrewed aircraft that are explicitly designed for tasks that don’t involve transporting people, with Rotors claiming that operators can deploy the R550X in various operations such as agriculture, firefighting, inspections, and maritime activities.
There are currently two R550X units being produced at the company’s New Hampshire facilities, and commercial operations are expected in the United States in 2024, with international operations scheduled to follow.