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“Uncrewed helicopter commercial operations with the R550X will start in 2024”

Rotor Technologies, Inc., a developer of autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, has started production of its R550X, the largest uncrewed civilian helicopter on the market, according to the company.

“The R550X is an uncrewed helicopter based on the Robinson R44 Raven II. It is designed to lift heavy loads up to 1,200 pounds, or 550 kilograms, with no pilot onboard. With a flight time of over three (3) hours and a top speed of 150 miles per hour, the R550X offers long-range VTOL capabilities beyond the reach of drones and eVTOLs, making it suitable for demanding cargo, utility, and maritime operations,” said the company press release. “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. Rotor’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. 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.

Rotor Chief Commercial Officer Ben Frank said “We have a number of agricultural customers who want to start operating the R550X as soon as possible, and this demand is driving us to begin production immediately.” The first commercial operations of the R550X are expected to begin in the US in 2024, with international operations to follow.

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