Rotor hosted guest of honor New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu in the first live flight test of its autonomous helicopters. The company-hosted event, which also included a tour of Rotor’s new Research & Development Center and a naming ceremony for Rotor’s R550X prototype, was attended by staff, their families, and invited VIPs.
The live flight of the R220Y, an uncrewed R&D aircraft based on the Robinson R22 2-seat helicopter, took place at Nashua Airport at around 2:30pm ET on January 30, 2024, before a crowd of around 100 people. The aircraft performed a full startup procedure, hovered in front of the audience, made turning maneuvers, and descended to land after approximately three minutes in the air. To the company’s knowledge, this historic flight is the first time that an uncrewed full-scale helicopter has ever flown publicly. It marks an important milestone on Rotor’s path to operational readiness for commercial missions.
The event highlighted the spirit of technological innovation in New Hampshire and included a tour of Rotor's campus, located on the former campus of Daniel Webster College, a site steeped in aviation history. Rotor’s newly-renovated R&D Center serves as the backdrop to Rotor’s revitalization of the aviation industry in New Hampshire, buoyed by the recently-announced R550X commercial helicopter program and the beginning of flight operations from a new Remote Operation Center.
The event concluded with the naming of Rotor’s R550X prototype, a static vehicle which will begin a tour of the US and Canada later this Spring. During the ceremony, Rotor CEO Hector Xu revealed the name of the aircraft, “as a tribute to the spirit of innovation and to what I can now proudly call my home state, this R550X will be named the Spirit of New Hampshire.” Xu and Governor Sununu popped champagne to celebrate.
Governor Sununu emphasized the historical significance of the occasion, stating, “As we embrace the Spirit of New Hampshire, we honor the legacy of American aviation pioneers nearly a century ago while looking to the future. New Hampshire has long been known for our innovative spirit, and today, a new era of aviation was ushered in right here in the Granite State. This is an exciting moment for the future of American-made aircraft!”
Rotor is building the first two R550Xs at its facilities in Nashua, N.H. These aircraft are expected to begin agricultural flights later this year. The R550X is based on the Robinson R44 Raven II. It is designed to lift heavy loads up to 1,212 lbs, or 550 kg, with no pilot onboard. With a flight time of over three hours and a top speed of 150 miles per hour, the R550X offers long-range VTOL capabilities beyond the reach of drones and eVTOLs.
"The R550X is the most technologically advanced and highest capacity commercial uncrewed helicopter in the world. And it’s built right here in this hangar,” said Xu. Rotor has brought scores of high tech jobs to New Hampshire from across the United States and intends to add new manufacturing, quality control, sales, and engineering support departments to support the R550X program.
Rotor would like to thank its partners at the FAA, Nashua Airport Authority, and New Hampshire DOT for making this flight possible.
Rotor develops autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft to make vertical flight radically safer and more accessible.Learn more about Rotor.