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Police test gyroplane as a helicopter alternative

September 13, 2011, 04:05 pm

The city of Tomball, Texas, is using a Department of Justice and Law Enforcement Aviation Technology grant to test a new gyroplane, a hybrid aircraft that uses an overhead, helicopter style rotor to create lift and a rear mounted propeller, according to Wired Magazine.

The principal advantage of the gyroplane for law enforcement is its cost. According to the source, the craft costs about $75,000 to purchase and about $50 an hour to operate, a fraction of the cost of a police helicopter, which runs at about $1,000 an hour to operate and has a price tag of up to $4 million.

The gyroplane runs on standard gasoline and is extremely fuel-efficient because it is an auto-rotation aircraft - essentially, the overhead rotor is not powered and rotates automatically, creating lift as the craft is propelled forward by the rear-mounted propeller.
A test pilot told the source that auto-rotor crafts are in some ways safer to operate than helicopters, which use auto-rotation principles to avoid crashing in emergency situations.

According to the U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics, one out of every five major law enforcement agencies in the United States operated at least one airplane or helicopter in 2007, and collectively spent about $300 million on aircraft purchase, fuel and maintenance.

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