The Gyroplane

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  • Thrust is produced by an engine-driven propeller
  • The unpowered, freely turning rotor is tilted back as the gyroplane moves forward
  • Oncoming airflow through the rotor causes it to spin, producing lift. This is called autorotation
  • Always operates in autorotation, thus it flies safely at low altitudes and low speeds, but cannot hover
  • No need for heavy main rotor transmission nor a tail rotor

The Helicopter

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  • The powered rotor produces both lift and thrust, and is tilted forward
  • Can hover, but a powered rotor requires:
    • Adequate forward speed and/or altitude to maintain flight in case of power failure
    • A heavy main transmission
    • Tail rotor to counteract the torque imposed on the aircraft

In general, Gyroplanes have higher performance in many areas than helicopters though they cannot hover.   Since the rotor blades on the gyroplane are powered only by the air (autorotation), much like a windmill, there is no need for a tail rotor for anti-torque.  The simplicity of a gyroplane’s design translates directly into safety, higher performance, higher mission readiness, lower maintenance, and more economical operation for its operator.

The gyroplane is a stable flying platform in comparison to helicopters, which pull the air down through engine-powered rotor blades making it possible to hover, but also making the aircraft much more complicated and expensive to fly.

Gyroplanes in flight are always in autorotation. If power fails in a gyroplane the autorotation continues, and the aircraft settles softly to the ground from any altitude. The procedure to land after a power failure is nearly the same procedure as a normal landing, which requires no landing roll. Thus the gyroplane is a safer aircraft for low and slow flight.

The prime advantage of helicopters over gyroplanes is their ability to hover, essential in some situations such as rescue or in sling load work. In point-to-point flying, a gyroplane’s inability to hover is not a disadvantage because gyroplanes, able to take off and land vertically, do not need to hover. For air surveillance missions, a gyroplane’s ability to loiter and circle at low speed around a spot or along a line, mirrors a helicopter’s operation for the same mission.  To maintain surveillance on one spot, proper procedure for all rotorcraft is to circle in a slow orbit.  In such circumstances, helicopters at low altitude out of ground effect avoid the danger inherent in hovering whenever possible.