Today is a day for fulfilling the dreams of PopSci's past, it would seem. Following the amphibious 70's-esque camping trailer, Jalopnik takes a whirl in the Auto-Gyro MTOsport, America's first police gyroplane, stirring up fond memories of all the fancy fliers we dreamed up in the 20s and 30s.
Clickhere to launch a gallery of auto-gyros, gyroplanes, autogiros, or whatever they're called, from the PopSci archives
The MTOsport is headquartered in Tomball, Texas, and at $75,000 costs a fraction of what a police force would spend on a helicopter. Operating costs are low too, at just $50 an hour, largely because it runs on regular pump gas.
The roofless, doorless contraption uses a rear-mounted propeller for speed, and an unpowered, angled rotor, spinning at 80 to 120 RPM, uses the air pushed into the blades from forward motion to create lift. It needs a little more than a hundred yards to take off, and then climbs into the air at a rate of 13 feet per second, eventually hitting speeds of up to 115 mph. Despite the lack of roof, the auto-gyro is arguably safer than a helicopter because it's always in autorotation. If power is lost, helicopter pilots have to ease their aircrafts down and hope that autorotation engages. The MTOsport would just glide down gently.
On the downside, no roofs or doors means riding in bad weather will be rough, and without thermal imaging cameras or large light beams, auto-gyros are best flown during the day. Even with these limitations though, the cost and efficiency of the auto-gyro makes it incredibly helpful for police forces in underserved areas like Tomball. The MTOsport can be in the air and on a mission within 10 minutes, and, in terms of coverage, is equal to the deployment of 20 officers, according to Tomball's chief of police.
**** the police!
Wow, only $75,000. Of course, you can buy RC planes and copters for somewhere between 1% and 10% of that cost that can be very competitive in terms of speed and range. As usual, it sounds like these guys are way behind the curve of modern technology.
@kook916, I hope you get the ban hammer.
@aarontco, can a person ride in/on a RC plane? Not an apples to apples comparison.
Looking at the gallery of old/working autogyro designs, these look like the closes and most affordable things to a personalized "flying-car like" vehicle. $75,000 isnt overly expensive for a flying vehicle either (and most like it could drop more then that)
So why didn't this technology ever really take off? The biggest limitation I can see is the speed limitation. About the same as a speeding car down the highway. But for city taxis and commutes to work or other, this seems like it would be perfect, and safe. If only you could adapt it for some limited vertical take off, you could potentially put one of these in every driveway and it would cost as much to operate as a car.
Thats what im inferring from what I have read about autogyros in the last 15 mins. But obviously there must be something Im missing, because autogyros are relatively rare.
Any comments on this thought experiment?
@Army Juggernaut, why do you need a person in it?
An drone or RC plane can have technology which is better at spotting people during the day or night at a fraction of the cost. Also, another perk is that if they go down, nobody gets hurt.
@readysetboom, Do you really want unmanned drones flying in our own country and watching us?
Think of this auto-gyro as an airborne patrol car. Carries two police officers to the scene of a crime faster than those traveling in traffic. Every second counts when you are trying to apprehend a dangerous criminal.
I think the appeal between gyroplanes, airplanes, and helicopters is pretty apparent to aviators and enthusiasts. Gyroplanes are just not as popular.
As far as the flying car concept, this is definitely the closest (at least in this form, minus the vertical lift capability). The biggest issue is creating an air traffic control infrastructure that would operate beneath municipal centers for low altitude traffic, and limited to a certain radius of a given metropolitan area.
On top of that, coordination would have to exist between the two for the purpose of low approaches to landing over metro areas performed by airlines. The flying car concept would work, but flight would be restricted to areas outside of airport vicinities. The idea seems confusingly complex.
The stance of the aviation enthusiast will always reside with a presence in the air. Law enforcement officials would use drones, but the purpose of this vehicle is to be a police transport (like an aerial police car; what Army Juggernaut proposed).
As far as police drones are concerned, there are some metropolitan areas in the U.S. where locals might not take kindly to the idea that robotically controlled cameras are flying 'round the clock able to watch their every move. It may work for the U.K., but most Americans (and their love for conspiracy theories) don't like the concept of the 'surveillance society,' in the interest of national security. This is why movies like 'Eagle Eye,' and 'Enemy of the State,' exist.
I understand we don't want constant survailance, but I think drones could be beneficial if limited to when a suspect is on the run or high speed chance. They could be use drones in the same manner in which police helicopter are currently used.
I live close to Tomball, and recently attended a German Festival they were having in which they unveiled these things for the first time (early spring) It was real big news here at the time and they are pretty cool looking up close. For small towns like Tomball the inexpensive gyro-copter is perfect and I believe they will be very handy in the coming years for police forces. At a fraction of the cost innovations like these will help relieve tax costs
Some people don't even like the use of conventional police aircraft. Hence kook916's statement. There isn't much winning with such sentiments. Doesn't mean there aren't platforms in existence that do monitor the landscape of different cities. The Houston Police Department is a good example of a fusion in aerial drone usage in law enforcement operations. They just don't make the news like warrior drones for the sake of PR. Plus they are not used in great abundance.
What the cops need is a Carter Gyrocopter,a five place advanced flying machine with 170 mph cruise,and VTOL capability.Google "Carter Gyrocopter Video" Probably much cheaper to buy than a copter,and definitely cheaper to operate.
No, people do not generally ride in RC planes, or they would not need to be RC, would they? However, since this gyro is just being used for surveillance, and not to actually deliver responders on scene (auto-gyros would not be ideal for this), the surveillance can be done wirelessly at a tiny fraction of the cost.
The major trend in modern technology for the last decade or so has been to produce cheap, wireless signalling and control systems. For $75k they could probably buy a dozen RC blimps and copters. They even have RC autogyros. The point is that this article brags about the cheapness of this new system, when, in reality, they could have probably gotten about the same capabilities for 1/20th of the cost.
As other posters have pointed out as well, this would avoid risk of life if the vehicle crashes.
I highly doubt that this is intended to be for police transport. For one thing it appears it could only transport one officer besides the pilot. Even a real helicopter is hard to land and control in a variety of conditions, like moderate winds, and autogyros don't have quite the precision of a helicopter. This little thing would get blown around like a plastic bag if you tried to use it for transport. It also clearly is not equipped for medical transport. The only reasonable conclusion is that it is for surveillance.
Get a sense of humor!
Of course they could do this sorta thing at 1/20th the cost. But aside from common phobias to the usage of such technology, the image of police officers at work might work well for public relations rather than the sight of a device akin to something people have scene in a sci-fi horror involving machines.
Using an RPA can be construed as safer, but the only types of people that would rather use these things are not aviators but cyber-operators, and demographically speaking, more of them tend to carry the "#### the police," sentiment for their affinity for conducting morally/ethically ambiguous action throughout cyberspace (also why they'd prefer federal government jobs; the freedom to conduct the same illegal activities they performed outside of government employment for the government).
When it comes to the aviator they are not motivated by safety. Their job satisfaction comes from thrill and excitement. It may not be a logical approach to something like police work, but job satisfaction is where quality comes from in a organization.
If a police force discovers they could hire more people who would be happier flying a gyroplane or a helicopter than sitting in an air conditioned building at a computerized control center, they'd choose to do so to achieve the end result of their functional purpose; civil protection and law enforcement.
The more dedicated someone is to their job correlates with the satisfaction they get from it.
That aside the infrastructure for operating RPAs are more expensive than just buying the aircraft (unless these aircraft are really Tyco RC from Radio shack). You have to consider the cost of control stations, a robust computer network, and satellite data linking necessary to function these aircraft. This is why federal agencies and departments use these things more than city and state municipalities. They have the money and the established infrastructure to do it.
I'm not convinced that remotely piloted craft would be more expensive. Yes, you have to have more electronic equipment on the ground. But you can afford that and still have money left over compared to the cost of the manned vehicle. An actual pilot needs expensive training too, and that's why they were quoting an operating price of $50/hour, even with normal gasoline as fuel. I suspect they're being optimistic, but I doubt that the remote piloting would cost more than that. The price of computers, and communication equipment is always coming down. They can probably even transmit on police and emergency bands without having to buy special rights.
As far as some of the other issues, the police would not have to advertise that they were conducting surveillance, or that the vehicle belonged to the police force. Presumably, most of their missions are stealthy, and are to collect actionable intelligence to back up police operations.
The bottom line is that these systems are coming, and we can no more stop it than we can command the tides. These remotely piloted systems are the future and they are no more likely to go away than the internet.
I’m not sure that you could call it the first. I remember reading about someone from the US Border Patrol recalling flying one of the Cierrva’s auto-gyro years before they had helicopters. His comments about how crazy they flew and no one wanted to fly it. I think that they crashed it, that how they got rid of it. This dates it to the 1930s or 1940s I think. (Please forgive my poor memory.)
Of course the modern ones are much improved and I’ve heard very stable in flight. It has been said that there is never a thing as being to windy for them. They also make them enclosed so I wonder why they went with a open design for them?
The biggest reason the auto gyro or any P.A.C. has never really caught on is the tendency for the average person to do stupid things without thinking of the outcome.There are very cheap ultralights of various designs.There would be a HUGE need for an advanced infra structure for flight path control and air traffic control if even a tenth of Americans became flying citizens.Not to mention the idiots who would think themselves"barn stormers" and think that every roof top and open lot or parking lot a landing pad.Here in the midwest a car full of teenagers bottomed out their car on a hill in a public road.....several times....for fun.till the suspension collapsed and two were killed when the the car hit a tree in a field.
The average citizen with a P.A.C.????
On the other hand.that could be the perfect way to prove Darwin right in his theory of survival of the fittest and smartest.