This video was made possible by
CuriosityStream. Watch thousands of high-quality documentaries and get
access to Nebula by using the link in the description. This is a Rotodyne.
And it might look like a helicopter and an airplane mashed together, but it’s
neither. It’s a lot more revolutionary. Because when it debuted over 60 years
ago, the Rotodyne was going to be a new form of mass transport. The quickest way
to move from one city center to the next. Landing on downtown rooftops and
heliports, but flying much faster, further and more economically than any
helicopter. And airlines were interested. But then, as the Rotodyne looked set to
revolutionize intercity transport, it just disappeared. To understand why this machine was so
revolutionary, consider that it doesn’t work like a helicopter. A helicopter uses
engine power to spin a rotor blade, which forces air down to create lift.Tilting
the rotor is what allows the helicopter to move in a given direction. That’s the
basic idea. But that’s not how Rotodyne works. On a Rotodyne, the large rotor
isn’t powered. It isn’t even connected to a motor. Instead, as air passes naturally
through the rotor blades, it causes the rotor to spin around like a pinwheel. And
this creates lift. The Rotodyne still has wings and a pair of turboprops, much like
an airplane. But in forward flight, the un-powered spinning rotor lifts more than
half the aircraft’s weight. With this unique design, the Rotodyne flew faster
than any helicopter of the era. And it was far more efficient. And even though
the rotor wasn’t driven by a motor, the Rotodyne could still hover and take off
and land vertically just like any helicopter. That’s because at the end of each
rotor blade were small tip jets. During takeoff and landing, fuel and compressed
air supplied by the turboprops would ignite to spin up the rotor. Once in
forward flight, the tip jets were shut off and the rotor would once again spin
freely. By 1959 the Rotodyne was attracting worldwide interest. Because
for one thing, it promised to revolutionize the way we traveled
between cities. In the 1950’s and 60’s, intercity air travel was on the rise. But
while a trip from New York to Boston by airplane might only take about an hour,
you’d also need to get to and from the airport. And in many congested cities,
that was beginning to take longer than the flight itself. One solution was to
use helicopters. In April, the new helicopter service is due to open from the top of the Pan-Am building. If the service does come about, you’ll be taking off from the fourth highest building in New York. 59 storeys up. it’s hoped that eventually the service will carry 5,000 passengers a day. 5,000 passengers who would otherwise be condemned to this. By the 1960’s helicopter airlines had
cropped up in major American cities. Letting passengers and skip the traffic
by flying right over it. The problem was, none of them were actually making money.
Because helicopters were simply too inefficient, operating anywhere from 20
to 30 cents per seat mile. And the only way helicopter Airlines like New York
Airways could even exist was through government subsidies to offset
operational costs. But the Rotodyne was going to change all that, bringing costs
down to as little as 4 cents per seat mile, which would make helicopter
airlines profitable. And the Rotodyne wasn’t just a better helicopter. With
vastly improved speed and range, it would be a new way to travel between cities,
linking one city center to the next. The concept behind the Rotodyne dates
all the way back to the early 1920’s, when a pioneering Spanish inventor set out to
build a safer plane. By adding an un-powered freely spinning rotor, his
planes could fly slowly without stalling, making them inherently safer than
airplanes. In fact, without any forward motion, the planes would simply glide
back to earth, slower than a parachute. They were called autogyros. Over the years, they were used in military reconnaissance and even to deliver mail. But by the 1940’s,
helicopter technology improved and autogyros largely fell out of favor. But
decades later, British aircraft manufacturer Fairey aviation still saw
enormous potential in the autogyro concept. If the vertical takeoff and
landing capability of a helicopter could be combined with the speed and
efficiency of an airplane, Fairey would have something truly special on their
hands. With the help of funding from the British government, the first Rotodyne
prototype took to the skies in 1957. It could carry 40 passengers 700 kilometers
and reach speeds of over 300 kilometers per hour. All while being able to land and
take off on a space not much larger than the aircraft itself. And after 350
successful test flights, the Rotodyne proved to be safe and capable. But of
course, it all went to [expletive]. For one, the Rotodyne’s tip jets made a lot of noise. And that was going to be a problem right
in the middle of a city. From the start, there were doubts about whether the
public would tolerate it. And noise is often believed to be the reason why the
Rotodyne failed. But that’s not the whole story. After proving their prototype,
fairy moved on to develop a production version. A larger more capable Rotodyne
that could carry up to 75 passengers. And it promised to be quieter. Ferry spent
years developing noise suppressor technology for the Rotodyne’s tip jets.
And while progress was slow, by 1960 the engineering team had reduced noise
by over 15%. And airlines were interested, with small orders coming in from around
the world. Not bad for an entirely new kind of transport. But to get the
production version built, Fairey still needed about £10 million more in funding
from the British government. And it was money they’d never get. Because at the
start of the 1960’s, Britain’s aviation industry was a mess. Too many aircraft
builders were building too few planes and relying heavily on government
sponsored projects. The solution was to force these companies, including Fairey
Aviation to merge. And the Rotodyne got caught in the shuffle, competing with a
number of other helicopter projects. progress was also slowed by difficulties
sourcing more powerful engines. And the need to reduce tip jet noise even
further. When it became clear that the Rotodyne wouldn’t be delivered to
Airlines on time, and the eventual cost of each Rotodyne would have been too
high, one by one orders were cancelled. In 1962,
the British government, facing economic pressures, suddenly pulled funding for
Rotodyne. And the half helicopter, half plane, once promising to
revolutionize intercity travel… just disappeared. The working prototype and
technical research were quickly destroyed. Leaving only a few small
pieces for museum display The Rotodyne failed to change air travel
and only a single prototype was ever built. But not all ambitious leaps
forward in engineering lead to such failure. Take the DC-3. A machine that in
its time, revolutionized air travel and earned a legendary status in wartime.
Over 16,000 DC-3 variants were built. This remarkable plane took the skies
just three decades after the Wright brothers first flight. And yet, hundreds
of DC-3’s are still flying today. Learn about this plane’s incredible story on
CuriosityStream. A streaming service with thousands of full-length
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nature, to engineering and design. You can get an entire year of CuriosityStream
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get a subscription to Nebula, an exciting new platform built by some of YouTube’s
top educational creators. Nebula is where creators make content for their audience
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Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. The only content creator which I look forward to when a new video is launched, and when concerns aviation- Cherry on the cake. Hat’s off for these videos sir.

  2. "the prototype was quickly destroyed"
    WHY DO COMPANIES DO THIS?
    PUT IT IN A SODDING MUSEUM YOU NUMPTIES, if noone sees it, you will never get the thing funded

  3. Sad it couldn't have been built with an electric motor to spin up the rotor, to keep it quiet. Once in flight, fully disengage the motor and fly on its merry way. Hindsight is always 20/20.

  4. With this as context, what's your opinion on the numerous upcoming VTOL+fixed wing drones that companies have been developing for both packages and passengers? This almost seems like a repeat of history- quads instead of helis, fixed wing multirotors instead of autorotors.

  5. Seems like the sort of thing that could be useful to the military today. They're certainly interested in high-payload aircraft with VTOL capability that do not require runways. A Rotodyne seems less complex than a V-22 Osprey, much smaller than airships (and much denser too, so less affected by winds).

  6. What an amazing aircraft. Was it just me or did people in the 60s and 70s have a serious aversion to noise? That's the Rotodyne and Concorde that fell victim to it. I still think there'd a market for an aircraft like Rotodyne today.

  7. What would have happened if the Rotodyne would had have a powered main rotor from the the two turboprops (i know it would had need a transfer gearbox(es)) during vertical take-off, and decoupled during cruising.This would have eliminating the noise factor from the tip jets and I guess the very expensive blades of the main rotor.

  8. Hi all – as some viewers are pointing out, it's a mistake to describe a 133 dB to 96 dB reduction as 15%. It's much more than that, as decibels are a logarithmic unit. Sorry for letting that error slip in and any confusion (note that 96dB is still incredibly loud).

  9. >The angle of the rotor controls direction on an helicopter
    That is very wrong. Varying the angle of attack of the rotor blades as they rotate does.
    The rotor itself does not move or tilt, and it spins at a constant RPM.

  10. Ah typical. The best engineering option is not always the best economic option. I wonder if Fairey cold have foreseen the actions of the british government or merely hoped for the bestz

  11. Hey I think you may have made a mistake with the noise reduction. 113 dB down to 96dB is more like seve times quieter as it’s a log scale. 20dB change is a factor of 10 in amplitude. You’re dealing with 17dB reduction so .708 times the 20dB reduction. I did the math in my head but 15% is not correct, that would be less than 3dB of change.

  12. this video felt a little too much like a promotion for curiositystream and nebula… It's shorter than usual and the promotion was so ham-fisted still liked it though

  13. What a shame… was a great aircraft wish I had a smaller version for private use! I’m sure today’s technology could perfect the idea

  14. Skip. The Rotodyne failed becuase it was NOISY as hell and the government pulled its funding. P.S. It wasn't more efficient, either.

  15. So it's a huge gyrocopter? Except it has jet engines at the tips if the rotor blades, so it can behave like a helicopter when it needs to.

  16. Going from 113dB down to 96dB is 15% reduction in terms of units, but it is certainly not in terms of sound energy or perceived sound. Energy of sound doubles every 3dB and 10dB reduction is half the perceived sound. So 113dB to 96dB is a very significant sound reduction, and in terms of perceived sound it would be about 1/3.

    A small mistake aside, as always though, a fantastic video on an interesting subject!

  17. It really is a shame that the Rotodyne project failed. It sounds like an excellent solution to the serious problem of intracity traffic and cheap high speed intercity travel for places that still lack high speed rail (like us backwards-ass Americans). Even beyond the American Northeast shown throughout this video, there would easily have been markets for this aircraft throughout Europe and even Japan.

    I have to wonder, with recent developments in electric propulsion technology, if the Rotodyne concept might be poised for a comeback, replacing the tip jets with high powered electric turbofans. The same issues this craft was meant to solve in the 1960's are still around today, and in many cases are even worse than ever. Slap some 21st Century updates on the original design and I reckon it's good for a second chance.

  18. Yet another interesting aviation project that met its fate at the end of a political axe. Countless airplane projects suffered the same.
    Great 3D models! As an aviation buff, it's really wonderful to see something so unknown remade so beautifully!

  19. And so, the British government inherited hundreds of brands all working away industriously and often innovatively, smashed them clumsily together and watched, slack-jawed as the hybrid companies all failed. This country is testament to the fact that, no matter how innovative the populace, governments will find a way to arse it up. Nice visuals, by the way.

  20. Anyone else rewatch his videos a ton? Idk why but something about them is just so good that I can rewatch them a bunch of times and still be entertained

  21. Of this technology, is there anything to resurrect today?
    I guess any aero-traffic might be a disaster to climate-changes but if there is any greatness of something I guess we are all interested.

  22. “Oh we aren’t going to be able to build this, let’s destroy millions in R&D instead of putting it in a shelf and trying it with new tech later down the line”

    WHY DO COMPANIES DO THIS!?!?!?!?

  23. so that's it….? this thing that for all intents and purposes is still better than helicopters is just gonna get forgotten?

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