Tier 1 Engineering has selected MagniX’s Magni350 electric propulsion unit (EPU) to power its planned converted version of the Robinson R44 helicopter. The start-up is seeking an FAA supplemental type certificate (STC) to bring the eR44 model into commercial service to carry human organs for transplant procedures.
Launch customer Lung Biotechnology has committed to buying an unspecified number of the semi-autonomous aircraft. In test flights, Tier 1 has flown up to around 40 miles. The company has yet to publish performance data for the production version of the eR44, but it is expected to have a flight endurance of around an hour at speeds of around 90 mph. The standard piston-powered R44 can fly up to 345 miles.
On December 7, Tier 1 took delivery of the first EPU from MagniX at its facility in Santa Ana, California. Washington-based MagniX has been conducting test flights with aircraft converted to use its EPUs since December 2019 and says that it is making progress in its efforts to secure FAA Part 33 certification for the equipment under recently published Special Conditions.
“MagniX was chosen as they are leading the industry in the development of aviation-specific electric propulsion, and we recognized that significant progress has been made towards obtaining FAA certification,” said Tier 1 Engineering president Glen Dromgoole. “With MagniX’s technology, we are now much closer to obtaining STC approval of the eR44 and transforming the delivery of life-saving human organs.”
Another California-based start-up, Eco Helicopters, has been working on a plan to use electric-powered R44s for air taxi services. It has previously worked with Tier 1 Engineering to achieve this objective.
Lung Biotechnology is owned by Martine Rothblatt, whose United Therapeutics group has also committed to using Beta Technologies' Alia 250 eVTOL aircraft and EHang's EH216 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle for organ-transplant flights.
MagniX is seeking to convert existing fixed-wing aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan and the DHC-2 Beaver to electric power. It is also providing its EPUs for sister company's Eviation's nine-passenger Alice aircraft.