Its design reminds me of the B-Wing but the gyroptère — or monocopter — is even weirder than the beloved starfighter from Star Wars. It had a single blade — the long wing you can see in white — which rotated to lift it to the skies. Try to picture that, because I really couldn’t until I saw this video.
Unlike this model, however, the gyroptère never got to fly. Theoretically it could but in 1913, when it was invented by by Alphonse Papin and Didier Rouilly, the technical means to get enough rotational speed to fly weren’t available yet:
Papin and Rouilly’s “Gyroptère” weighed 500kg (1100 lb) including the float on which it was mounted. It had a single hollow blade with an area of 12 square metres (130 sq ft), counterweighted by a fan driven by an 80 hp Le Rhone rotary engine spinning at 1,200 rpm which produced an output of just over 7 cubic metres (250 cu ft) of air per second. The fan also propelled air through the hollow blade, from which it escaped through an L-shaped tube at a speed of 100m/s (330 ft/s). Directional control was to be achieved by means of a small auxiliary tube through which some of the air was driven, and which could be directed in whatever direction the pilot wished. The pilot’s position was located at the centre of gravity between the blade and the fan.
Testing was delayed due to the outbreak of World War I and did not take place until 31 March 1915 on Lake Cercey on the Côte-d’Or. Due to the difficulty of balancing the craft a rotor speed of only 47 rpm was achieved instead of the 60 rpm which had been calculated as necessary for takeoff. In addition, the rotary engine used was not powerful enough; it had originally been planned to use a 100 hp car engine which proved unobtainable. Unfortunately, the aircraft became unstable and the pilot had to abandon it, after which it sank.