First Flight for Uncrewed Firefighting Helicopter

First Flight for Uncrewed Firefighting Helicopter

Rotor Technologies, Inc.’s uncrewed helicopter prototype achieved first flight at New York UAS Test Site

First flight of R22S6–01. The aircraft was piloted by Chief Pilot Joao Magioni. The flight test was directed by Dr. Yiou He and the flight engineer was Dr. Kristoffer Frey. The aircraft was uncrewed and piloted from a ground control station (background).

Rotor’s team of MIT scientists is combining flight control algorithms, computer vision, and satellite communications to create CloudPilot, an operating system that will make aircraft operations safer and easier.

CloudPilot will initially be used to combat wildfires, where helicopters drop water or fire retardant to slow the spread of fires and provide aerial logistics for firefighters on the ground. Rotor is working with US Federal and State agencies to conduct field tests in 2023.

The prototype helicopter is based on the Robinson R22, a light helicopter that is commonly used for flight training and agricultural work. In a conventional crewed configuration, the R22 can carry around 170lbs of useful payload; Rotor’s uncrewed configuration can carry 400lbs of payload for more than 3 hours.

The flight prototype, officially designated “R22S6–01” and unofficially dubbed Birdy McBirdface, is one of two identical prototypes certified by the FAA for R&D and field testing.

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