Monday, June 3, 2013

Autogyro: Forgotten Tech Still Shows Signs Of Potential

Autogyros seem to be a forgotten tech thanks to the advent of the very versatile helicopter.  In modern times the autogyro has improved from Cierva's original design.  Two man crafts now feature initial powered rotation of the rotors, aft facing propeller that provides partial vector thrusting with the rudder.  Now the technology is being pushed further.  Let's check out a couple of 'sporty' autogyros on the market that would make James Bond green with envy, and let's look at two future developments in the making.

The autogyro is going the way of the sports car.  Calidus and Arrow Copter are currently on the market and show off their sexy bodies like no other rotary wing craft.  They both are tandem two seaters and feature enclosed cockpit with a bubble canopy.  Calidus has nice rounded curves and sleek lines while Arrow Copter sprawls out its elevator and rear landing gear almost like a bird of prey extends its wings, tail, and talons.  They are quite cool.  The beauty of a sleek and sexy autogyros lie in where they likes to fly.  They like to fly just above the tree tops, and they do very well there.  While planes can fly in that region, they can't maneuver as quickly in tight spaces as autogyros can.  Following the terrain is quite dangerous for planes.  Military planes require sophisticated radar mapping equipment to fly near the ground.  Autogyros can swivel in tight turns, can fly slow, and cost less in maintenance than a helicopter.  They can take off in around 500 ft of runway space though they don't need a runway.  A flat field will do.  They land in a fraction of that distance.  Both of these models have a max. speed of just over 100 mph.  They should do great in hilly or lake ridden landscapes.  I gathered this information by watching many videos of gyroplanes and reading specs on them.  Though it is said that autogyros are safer than helicopters, all aircraft can and do crash.  All safety precautions should be taken.

There are now 2 significant developments.  There is a flying car with the Pal-V, and there is a plane hybrid with Carter Aviation Technologies.  The Pal-V is a roadable autogyro.  That is it is street legal and flies like an autogyro.  It seems to drive more like an enclosed motorcycle than a car since it leans into turns on its 3 wheels.  The conversion from road vehicle to aircraft involves a combination of automatic motions and manual hands-on motions.  You can cross rivers, lakes, mountains (or hills), and valleys by flying over them and then park it at home.  That's pretty neat.

Carter Aviation Technologies have developed and perfected the slowed rotor concept to create a hybrid autogyro and plane.  The result is a craft that can virtually takeoff and land vertically yet have the flight efficiency and range of an airplane.  It's a real vertical takeoff and vertical landing craft (VTVL).  Carter Aviation redesigned the main rotor and added weights on the tips.  This allows for jump vertical takeoffs by pre-rotating the rotors.   The craft converts from autogyro to plane just by tilting the mast.  Then, it flies like a plane and you can get some great mileage or range out of your fuel.  With larger craft, Carter Aviation plans on using twin propellers with variable angle props which would allow the craft to hover like a helicopter.  This is truly a major breakthrough for the autogyro.

Autogyros are developing and have come far since Cierva made his debut flight in 1924.   Some on the market are sporty, sexy, and fun.  New innovations should help the future of this venerable craft.  Perhaps one day we will look at autogyros the way we look at helicopters personal planes.  It can be the safer go anywhere personal craft.  Engineering is awesome.