Tired of quadcopters? Can you resist… the cyclocopter?

We’ve seen some oddball drones over the years. But it looks as though this one couldn’t possibly fly. At least, not until you learn the secret behind the cyclocopter drone.

Clearly, a drone that uses two egg beaters on its sides could never actually leave the ground. And yet that’s what Nicholas Rehm’s remote-controlled cyclocopter manages to accomplish, in quite a startling way. The first part of the secret is that the fins on the rotors aren’t just paddles, they’re airfoils.

Still, you’d expect that the airfoils would cancel one another during rotation. But that’s the second part of the secret. There’s a little mechanism on the hub that keeps adjusting the pitch of the blades.

The secret behind the cyclocopter drone

As Rehm explains it:

The cyclorotor generates thrust by pitching the blades once per revolution so that they always have a positive angle of attack with respect to the incoming airflow. The position that this pitching angle occurs can be adjusted with a servo and a clever control rod mechanism so that the thrust direction can be instantly vectored in any direction.

The linkage on the hub is the key.

It’s also kind of delicate, so the cyclocopter doesn’t respond well to crashes.

Perhaps surprisingly, this idea goes back to the early days of aviation. Jonathan Edward Caldwell patented the cyclogyro in 1927. But the device was apparently too unstable for human flight, so it languished.

It’s not clear how you would enter this cyclocopter, but try to avoid the sides.

Hackaday, however, has followed the more modern takes on the technique.

A propeller is still required to counteract the torque created by the rotors, the way the rear rotor on a helicopter keeps the aircraft from spinning. The prop also helps with forward thrust. It’s just one of the forward flight modes, though, as Rehm explains in his video.

It’s a neat design, but it will need a well-thought-out camera gimbal if Rehm ever hopes to use it to take steady video.

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