Helicopter - History of Helicopter
Helicopters today are powerful machines used to save lives, defend nations, and even entertain tourists. Most people are surprised to learn, however, that the helicopter design was actually based off of an ancient children's toy.
Around 400 BC, Chinese children commonly played with bamboo flying toys, constructed through the attachment of a stick to a flat piece of bamboo. When the stick was spun between the hands of children, it created enough lift to shoot through the air and land a slight distance away. Common to Chinese youth for centuries, this toy was introduced to the Western world through art during the Renaissance. This introduction led to the creation of the first helicopter designs.
In the early 1480s, Leonardo da Vinci used these images to create a flight model built like a screw, which could be propelled upwards to generate flight. However, this model was never tested.
During the 1700s, Russian, Chinese and French inventors proposed numerous helicopter like designs. Although different in mechanisms, each of these designs was built as a circular machine that could be propelled upwards through the use of a spring. Each of them, however, failed to be built to their full size and instead remained as child-like prototypes sold as toys.
Upon the introduction of the steam engine in the 1800s, the early form of the helicopter was able to finally lift off the ground. In 1878, an Italian inventor named Enrico Forlanini, created and successfully flew a steam-powered helicopter. This design vertically ascended 40ft into the air, where it hovered for 20 full seconds.
Obviously, this limited ability was not useful for commercial applications, and therefore the helicopter continued its developmental journey throughout the 1900s as well. Finally, the use of the internal combustion engine in the early 1900s allowed a manned helicopter to take flight. Unfortunately, throughout much of the first three decades, these flights were small lived each lasting less than a minute.
By 1924, the helicopter had advanced to rise over 1,000 feet in the air, and fly for nearly 10 full minutes. Progressing rapidly over the next 10 years, by the mid 1930s, helicopters could fly for multiple hours were beginning to be manufactured and sold to governments across the world.
Today, the helicopter's unique ability to vertically take off and land allows for its use in rescuing people, moving heavy equipment, and transporting injured persons to the hospital. Although it once began as a children's toy, this toy eventually became the design for one of the most useful pieces of transportation machinery available today throughout the world.