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Co-Founder of SiriusXM Radio Comes to Quebec
By Ian Brown, Editor
May 2019 - I first learned a little bit about Martine Rothblatt because she built a hangar at my local airport, CZBM, in Bromont, Quebec. The more I heard, the more I felt motivated to find out, and the internet was able to tell me plenty.
Martine, it seems, flies her Pilatus to Bromont and then takes the helicopter to her home on Lake Memphremagog.
You can watch a fascinating TED Talk in the form of an interview with her at this link. She has led an amazing life and defied the odds to save the life of her daughter.
From an aviation perspective, what you may be interested to know is that she designed and mathematically demonstrated a challenging concept of the first full-size fully electric helicopter. The specifics of the design, a modified Robinson R44, were carried out by Tier 1 Engineering and Ric Webb of OC Helicopters was the pilot. The aircraft first flew for five minutes, achieving speeds of 80 knots and 400 feet altitude. The gross weight with a single pilot on board was 2,500 pounds, and the flight took place in September 2016. The rechargeable batteries were provided by Brammo Inc., and the whole project was sponsored by Rothblatt's Lung Biotechnology PBC, which intends to apply the technology to distributing manufactured organs for transplantation. The hope is that the distribution system will use a much smaller carbon footprint and make a lot less noise.
The Electrically Powered Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft for Organ Delivery (EPSAROD) project is planned to evolve out of the design work done on the R44. The helicopter established records for having sustained a flight of 30 minutes and achieving speeds of 100 knots and an altitude of 800 feet. On December 7, 2018, they entered the Guinness Book of World Records by travelling a distance of more than 56 kilometers (30 nautical miles).
The flight that achieved 100 knots was also the first carrying two people. There are several YouTube videos of flights of this aircraft, but this one is one of my favourites.
Rothblatt is an airplane and helicopter pilot with night-vision goggle (NVG) certification. She generally pilots a Pilatus PC-12NG and a Bell 429WLG. Canadian pilots will be interested to know that with SiriusXM radio, they can download current weather information via satellite, and feed that into their suitably equipped electronic flight equipment.
Martine's latest project is how to digitally capture the essence of a human being. With others, a humanoid robotic copy of her wife, Bina, known as BINA48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture) has been created. The dean of the UCLA School of Business Management described Martine as "the most interesting person you will ever meet." How could anyone doubt it?