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World’s Smallest Helicopter

Those of us who’ve been dreaming of cheap personal air travel in the Buck Rogers, sci-fi jet-pack mode should turn their eyes towards Vinci, Italy on May 25. That’s when Gennai Yanagisawa, inventor of the tiny GEN H-4 personal helicopter, will be taking his lightweight 165-pound whirly-gig on a demonstration flight. Why Vinci? According to the 75-year-old Yanagisawa, “Since the concept of our helicopter came from Italy, I always wanted to take a flight in the birthplace of da Vinci.” Indeed, Leonardo’s famous notebook drawings from 1493 show an “ornithopter” with a screw-like rotor. Like da Vinci’s pioneering design, Yanagisawa’s GEN H-4 has no tail. Instead, twin counter-rotating propellers cancel out the torque that requires single-rotor helicopters to have a perpendicular tail rotor. The GEN H-4 personal helicopter is actually available for purchase now, though Yanagisawa’s company (located in the Japanese city of Matsumoto) has so far sold only six (2 in the USA). The cost for one is a reasonable $58,250 and once airborne, the GEN H-4 can fly at a somewhat sedate speed of 31 mph – slow yes, but probably faster than rush hour traffic. Veni, vidi, volanti!