The helicopter kite operates on the same principle as a gyrocopter. It's
something different! A large rotor is kept spinning by the airflow
across it, like a fan being blown in the wind. Once spinning, the rotor
develops 'lift' like a wing, and can lift the rest of the kite.
A small tail fin keeps the kite pointing into wind, like the tail does
for a Diamond kite. Also, a small horizontal stabilizer at the back
helps keep the rotor blade at the correct nose-up angle to the wind.
As far as my own flying products go, I haven't tackled a heli just yet. A bit hard to do in dowel and plastic sheet - or paper ;-)
The Helicopter Kite As A Toy
The most well known, and perhaps one of very few products of this type
is manufactured in and distributed world-wide from a single location in
the U.S. Besides Helicopter Kite, this toy also pops up under the names...
Hard plastic helicopter kite
Hard plastic helicopter kite
All these products are essentially the same, with the differences being mainly in the packaging. The kite requires some assembly, but it's just a few simple plug-it-in operations as far as I can see.
I've seen videos of this toy in flight and it appears reliable and stable. However, don't
expect it to reach the line angles of a good Delta kite! Having said
that, I still think it would be something of a head-turner for the kids
down in the local park. My little boy would love one, I'm sure...
Helicopter Kites In History
Apart from children's toys, some man-carrying craft of this type can be found in history. I should mention a distinction here. The gyrocopter concept can fly...
- as a powered craft with a propulsion unit attached - or
- tethered - like a kite
Looking at each of these in turn...
Apparently the powered gyro-copter concept has been around since the 1920s. A motor would spin a pusher-prop, giving forward speed, while the free-spinning rotor above would support the weight of the craft. When improvements in helicopters made them practical, autogyros, as the free-spinning versions were often called, faded in popularity.
Autogyros were, however, used in the 1930s by major newspapers. Also, the US Postal Service used autogyros for a couple of mail service routes. One of these routes ended up on the roof of a large building, which says something about the slow-speed capabilities of these machines.
But here's something very interesting - autogyros have made a come-back of sorts! They are now yet another type of sport aircraft.
In World War II, Germany developed a tiny gyrocopter kite, the
Focke-Achgelis Fa 330. This machine was towed by U-boats for aerial
surveillance. Later, the Japanese Army developed the Kayaba Ka-1
Autogyro for reconnaissance, artillery-spotting, and anti-submarine
So it's a saga that began with war machinery and has ended up in the Children's Toys department!