The German Aerospace Centre has modified a commercial craft designed to operate without a pilot
Spotted: The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) has developed the world’s first fully autonomous delivery helicopter. The gyrocopter is a modified commercial craft designed to operate without a pilot.
The seats have been replaced by a loading bay, additional sensors have been installed and a flight computer has been added for the autonomous features. The gyrocopter can travel as far as 500 km and carry loads of up to 200 kg. According to DLR, it has proven capable of reaching altitudes of up to 150 m and speeds of 100 km/h.
Unlike helicopters, gyrocopters are not powered directly by a motor. Instead, the rotors are powered by airflow and spin freely in flight. A second horizontal propeller provides the forward propulsion. With these differences, gyrocopters can fly extremely slowly and be very agile. Short take-off and landing abilities make it highly versatile — landing and taking off almost anywhere. These advantages mean that gyrocopters can operate in difficult-to-access areas.
The advantages of the gyrocopter as an autonomous delivery craft are that it is cheap to operate and, mechanically, quite simple. This presents benefits for both commercial and humanitarian expeditions. For example, with the growth of e-commerce, there is an increasing demand for more efficient transportation of produce. Gyrocopters enable the cost of transportation to be lower than conventional shipments.