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Fraundorfer prepares clean-sheet gyrocopter for first flight

Germany's Fraundorfer Aeronautics intends to start test flights of a prototype two-seat gyrocopter this year, with a plan to introduce a six-seat version by 2025.

The Donauworth-based company unveiled the Tensor two-seater in May, which it is now preparing for flight testing. Certification – initially as an ultralight aircraft for the owner-flyer and training markets – is targeted for "summer" 2020. Deliveries are scheduled to begin later that year, says Fraundorfer's head of sales and marketing, Klaus-Peter Leinauer.

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Fraundorfer Aeronautics

The manufacturer's strategy is to expand the platform's capability and customer base in stages. Certification as an aerial observation and special mission platform under European Union Aviation Safety Agency regulations is planned for 2022, and approval for a six-seat variant suitable for the air taxi market is scheduled for 2024-2025, says Fraundorfer.

At an airspeed as low as 22kt (41km/h), the Tensor will offer similar capabilities to a helicopter but will be much quieter and cheaper to operate, says Fraundorfer. Take-off will require a 90m (300ft) ground roll, while landing will be possible within 30m, the company adds. The aircraft will have a maximum cruise speed of 115kt, and a range up to 320nm (593km).

While the gyrocopter concept is not new, Leinauer says the Tensor has a more refined design and performs better than existing platforms. The manufacturer used modern computational fluid dynamics analysis to optimise the rotor head and an airframe that features a fully enclosed cabin.

A pair of winglet-equipped wings aft of the cabin provide up to 30% of required lift at high speed, thus reducing pressure and drag on the rotor. Illustrations indicate that the six-seat variant will additionally be equipped with short canard wings for more lift and stability.

A pusher propeller – with three blades on the Tensor and six blades on the six-seater – is integrated into the tail boom, leading to an empennage with a horizontal tail plane and three down-facing fins. The two outer fins are connected, via struts, to the main wings.

Leinauer says Fraundorfer's design will provide a higher degree of aerodynamic stability than in other gyrocopters at both high and low airspeeds. In stable flight, he says, pilots will be able to take their hands off the controls and the aircraft will maintain its attitude.

While the gyrocopter will initially be powered by a Rotax piston engine, Fraundorfer foresees that the aircraft could alternatively be equipped with fuel cell- or battery-powered electric motors or a hydrogen combustion engine.

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