The gyrocopter, while it looks similar to a helicopter and its rotor provides lift, there is no engine turning the rotor. Forward thrust is provided by an engine-driven propeller and the wind causes the rotor to spin.


Gyrocopters require less area to take off and land than airplanes and can be flown as slowly as 15 mph without stalling. When autorotation is no longer maintained due to reduced speed, lift is not instantly lost. The rotor slows so it still creates lift and the aircraft descends gradually.


The gyrocopter, also known as autogyro, gyroplane and rotaplane, was invented by Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva and first flown in Madrid in 1923. Amelia Earhart set the women’s world altitude record of 18,415 ft (5,613 m) in 1931 in a Pitcairn PCA-2. In 2015, astrophysicist and pilot Donatella Ricci set a world record in a MagniGyro M16 with an altitude of 27,556 ft (8,399 m).