Gyrocopters are the oft-overlooked child of aviation, lacking the straightforward design of fixed-wing aircraft or the hovering capabilities of a helicopter. But their unusual design offers stability at slow speeds, a trait that could be especially useful when applied to a drone.
Created by UAVenture, new as-yet-unnamed gyrocopter drones are billed as “helicopter ‘hybrid’ drones”, with a speed range of 0 to 93 mph (or 0 to 150 km/h). That suggests the hybrid feature is the use of the spinning blade as a rotor for lift when not in forward flight.
The initial plan from UAVenture is for two drones, one at 44 lbs, the other at 220 lbs, which will “merge the best of gyrocopter and helicopter technology into a single system for a fully autonomous, vertical takeoff and landing capable drone in helicopter mode and an efficient forward flight in an autorotating gyrocopter mode.”
For military planners and designers, the hybrid-gyrocopter drone is worth watching for a few reasons. The first is that gyrocopters offer a novel solution to short takeoff and landing, which could give commanders options with everything for scouting missions to resupply.
The second is that as the small military drone space expands, the need for single platforms to perform multiple roles is only likely to increase, and efficient flight at slow speeds is one way to make a drone a persistent asset in battlefield use.
The ability of small, slow-flying craft to evade normal air defense radars should not be underestimated.
Watch the gyrocopter drone in flight below:
Kelsey Atherton blogs about military technology for C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain, Defense News, and Military Times. He previously wrote for Popular Science, and also created, solicited, and edited content for a group blog on political science fiction and international security.