Rotor kite
A rotor kite or gyroglider is an unpowered, rotary-wing aircraft
A rotorcraft or rotary wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine that uses lift generated by wings, called rotor blades, that revolve around a mast. Several rotor blades mounted to a single mast are referred to as a rotor. The International Civil Aviation Organization defines a rotorcraft...

. Like an autogyro
An autogyro , also known as gyroplane, gyrocopter, or rotaplane, is a type of rotorcraft which uses an unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller, similar to that of a fixed-wing aircraft, to provide thrust...

 or helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

, it relies on lift
Lift (force)
A fluid flowing past the surface of a body exerts a surface force on it. Lift is the component of this force that is perpendicular to the oncoming flow direction. It contrasts with the drag force, which is the component of the surface force parallel to the flow direction...

 created by one or more sets of rotors
Helicopter rotor
A helicopter main rotor or rotor system is a type of fan that is used to generate both the aerodynamic lift force that supports the weight of the helicopter, and thrust which counteracts aerodynamic drag in forward flight...

 in order to fly. Unlike a helicopter, autogyros and rotor kites do not have an engine powering their rotors, but while an autogyro has an engine providing forward thrust that keeps the rotor turning, a rotor kite has no engine at all, and relies on either being carried aloft and dropped from another aircraft, or by being towed into the air behind a car or boat. As of 2009, no country in the world requires a license to pilot such a craft.


Research into rotor kites began in earnest during World War II, and one type in particular, the Focke Achgelis Fa 330
Focke Achgelis Fa 330
The Focke-Achgelis FA 330 Bachstelze was a type of rotary-wing kite, known as a gyroglider or rotor kite. They were towed behind German U-boats during World War II to allow a lookout to see farther.- Development :...

, reached active service, being towed behind German U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s as an aerial observation platform. In the United Kingdom, Raoul Hafner
Raoul Hafner
Raoul Hafner, , was an Austrian-born British helicopter pioneer and engineer.Raoul Hafner, FEng, FRAes, a pioneer of rotating wing aircraft design, died as a result of a yachting accident, was an Austrian who made a distinctive contribution to the British aerospace industry, particularly the...

 designed the Rotachute as a means of deploying paratroops, and a larger version, the Rotabuggy
Hafner Rotabuggy
The Hafner Rotabuggy and as the "M.L. 10/42 Flying Jeep" was a British experimental aircraft that was essentially a Willys MB combined with a rotor kite, developed with the intention of producing a way of air-dropping off-road vehicles.-Design and development:It was designed by Raoul Hafner of the...

 was trialled as a means of air-dropping a jeep
Willys MB
The Willys MB US Army Jeep and the Ford GPW, were manufactured from 1941 to 1945. These small four-wheel drive utility vehicles are considered the iconic World War II Jeep, and inspired many similar light utility vehicles. Over the years, the World War II Jeep later evolved into the "CJ" civilian...

, but neither of these aircraft progressed past the experimental stage. Plans to similarly equip a tank never left the drawing board.

During the 1950s, rotor kites were developed as recreational aircraft, largely due to the efforts of Dr. Igor Bensen
Igor Bensen
Igor Bensen was the founder of the Bensen Aircraft, which produced a successful line of Gyrogliders and Autogyros...

 in the United States, whose Bensen Aircraft Corporation produced a series of such aircraft, dubbed "gyrogliders" by Bensen. These were marketed as plans or kits for building at home, beginning with the B-5
Bensen B-5

 and culminating with the B-8 by the end of the decade. The Bensen designs became so ubiquitous that the term "gyroglider" is sometimes used to refer to any rotor kite, regardless of manufacturer. In the 1960s, a B-8 gyroglider was evaluated by the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

as a "Discretionary Descent Vehicle", to provide a more controllable alternative than a parachute for a pilot ejecting from a stricken aircraft.

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