Sometimes you have to look back to move forward. Before the first commercial helicopter took to the skies in 1942, there was the gyrocopter.
- The concept of a flying car goes back to Leonardo Da Vinci, who sketched out a design in the 15th century.
- Once usurped by the helicopter, the gyrocopter has offered inspiration to make flying cars.
- By combining some of the gyrocopter’s best design with state-of-the-art technology, electric flying cars could provide a solution to traffic and environmental concerns.
The first flying machine was conceived by Renaissance genius Leonardo Da Vinci in sketches, though he never built one. Similar to the helicopter, the gyrocopter has great maneuverability but the drawback was it needed a runway to get off the ground. Where the gyrocopter offers an extreme advantage over the helicopter is in its fail-safe design. In the case of a power failure, it can still be controlled as it glides down to the ground.
Left in the wake of the helicopter, the gyrocopter is now experiencing a new dawn by providing inspiration for flying taxis. Kaydon Stanzione, CEO of Jaunt Air Mobility, wants to be the first to bring the 21st-century piloted and autonomous electric models to the skies.
Jaunt rendering of Uber Air Taxi (Image: Jaunt Air Mobility)
A kid with a dream of flying
Before he graduated elementary school, Stanzione built his first helicopter using his go-cart and makeshift plywood rotors. He was that kid who got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license. As an expert advisor to NATO, Stanzione evaluated the engineering design, performance, flying qualities and overall mission effectiveness of numerous US and NATO military VTOL and fixed-wing aircraft.
Stanzione reminds that Urban Air Mobility (UAM) isn’t a new concept, but rather a new moniker put to an old idea of personal transportation. The technology just wasn’t there to implement a feasible design. Now it’s reached a tipping point.
“One of the major challenges is to take these fairly immature technologies and increase the Technology Readiness Levels and the Manufacturing Readiness Levels to a point where they make UAM extremely safe, acceptable to communities and affordable,” Stanzione says.
Safe even in the case of power failure
When flying a traditional helicopter, there is something known as the “dead man’s curve”, a height-velocity (H/V curve). In the event of mechanical failure, flying outside this zone can be fatal—hence the name. Stanzione explains how his aircraft circumvents this dangerous situation.
“Jaunt does not require any power-assisted arrested landing systems because the main rotor has sufficient inertia to provide autorotation and a zero-roll landing,” he says. “With the addition of a wing, Jaunt does not have the traditional “dead man’s curve” and can safely land from any flight condition in all-power out.”
Jaunt Air Mobility Slow-Rotor Technology (Video: Jaunt Air Mobility)
By incorporating a slow-rotor technology developed by Carter and acquired by Jaunt, the aircraft cuts down on drag by reducing the rotational speed of the rotor, enabling a faster and more economical flight. Called Reduced rotor Operating Speed Aircraft (ROSA™), Stanzione says Jaunt has the lowest noise profile of any flying machines in development.
Validation of concept
Uber was so impressed with Jaunt’s concept that it invited the company take part as one of its six official development aircraft for its flying taxi program. Jaunt intends to be the first to receive FAA certification. It plans to get a prototype airborne in 2023 and sign off by the FAA a year after.
If Jaunt’s aircraft isn’t exactly a helicopter—although Stanzione says it’s generally viewed as one—then what is it? “Jaunt is an enigma since it is a simple compound air vehicle, yet simple in its design and operation,” he says. “It is not a gyrocopter since it has a powered lifting rotor. Jaunt also has full upper rotor helicopter controls along with a fixed-wing control system.”
Back in the 15th century Leonardo Da Vinci sketched out the first concept for a flying machine. It has only taken 500 years for the technology to catch up.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The era of the flying taxi may actually become a reality. With its safe and environmentally conscious design, Jaunt could provide part of the solution to easing traffic while protecting the environment from the burn of fossil fuels. Plus, it will be an absolute kick to wave goodbye to traffic as you fly right over!