Robinson Helicopter at Heli-Expo 2018. Photo by Mark Bennett
Robinson Helicopter Co. President Kurt Robinson told the media Tuesday that the company has seen slight growth in sales year over year in 2017, and he's not deterred from potentially disruptive technologies such as urban air mobility vehicles.
Robinson said the company produced a total of 305 aircraft, which included 77 R66s, 194 R44s and 34 R22s — all increases from the year before. Sales also increased outside the U.S.
"We're very happy to see that approximately 80% of our deliveries were outside the U.S.," Robinson said, "which I find interesting, but also tells me that the economies around the world are gaining steam."
Robinson said sales were not concentrated in any particular area, which perhaps means the industry "is starting to come back."
Weekly production, he continued, increased this year to one R22 per week, two R66s per week and five R44s per week.
"My forecast if I had to give one would probably be that this year will be similar to last year — perhaps a little better," he said. "We are just a little bit ahead in sales right now than we were last year, but not a whole lot. And who knows what the economies are going to do during the year, so it can change at any time."
But the company is holding steady against potential long-term effects from urban air mobility technology, should it become reality. Companies like Uber are leading the charge on developing vehicles and an ecosystem that would allow end-to-end transportation in electric autonomous vehicles.
"Actually going forward, I think it's going to be a huge help," Robinson said. "They're developing, what I call heliports, they call vertiports."
Robinson said establishing this infrastructure would be beneficial to traditional helicopters.
"If I suddenly want to go from L.A. to Palm Springs, or L.A. to somewhere else, having that same pick-up spot where I can take people farther and carry more weight and loads — I think they're going to be complementary."
He echoed that same sentiment regarding drone technology.
"I actually think drones and some of the very low-level photography flight, I'm really pleased they're here to be honest," he continued. "Our newscaster and police helicopters are still going well, it's not like everybody grounded them to get a drone. ... We will continue to do all these things because our expertise is obviously with people."
Robinson said the company is taking a "wait-and-see attitude" regarding what the industry will do regarding these new technologies.
"We're still working with a couple companies, and it's something that I think has a lot of possibilities for it," he said.