Back to the future: Texas cops fly a high-tech version of 1923 autogyro

Police in Tomball, Texas, are flying a high-tech version of an aircraft first flown in 1923, an autogyro, a tiny open aircraft with no doors that's much cheaper to own and fly than helicopters, Matt Hardigee of Jalopnick reports in Wired.

The aircraft uses rear-mounted propeller to get speed. Then, an angled, unpowered overhead rotor uses the air pushed into the blades to create lift, the article explained.

The Tomball police are the first in the nation to use the aircraft, which needs about 100 yards to take off, climbs at 13 feet per second, can hit 115 mph, and hover at a relatively low speed, the story explains.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 Mike at NASA

@Nathan, You may want to read more about autogyros before dismissing them so quickly, and also about autorotation, which is also used by helicopters in the case of engine failure. From Wikipedia: "In helicopters and autogyros, autorotation refers to generation of lift by the main rotor when it is not being driven by an engine. Should an engine fail, a helicopter may be able to use autorotation lift to slow its descent and land in a controlled manner. Autogyros' main rotors are unpowered, so they rely continuously on autorotation for lift." I hope this helps allay some of your concerns about safety. Autogyros fell out of favor decades ago because they were much more limited than the other aircraft being developed at the time, but they possess many features that make them uniquely suited to certain missions such as surveillance and border patrol. I'm glad to see renewed interest in them.

Thu, Sep 15, 2011 Nathan

Sounds like a frikin' death trap if you ask me. An overhead rotor that isn't powered? You have to be nuts to go up in something like that. If something happens to the rear rotor, what are you going to do, spin the top one really fast with your hand?

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