Aircraft

Tensor 600X STOL gyroplane offers a taste of bigger gyros to come

Tensor 600X STOL gyroplane off...
Fraundorfer has launched its Tensor 600X gyroplane at the European Rotors show in Cologne
Fraundorfer has launched its Tensor 600X gyroplane at the European Rotors show in Cologne
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Fraundorfer has launched its Tensor 600X gyroplane at the European Rotors show in Cologne
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Fraundorfer has launched its Tensor 600X gyroplane at the European Rotors show in Cologne
The end goal here is a six-seat Tensor capable of air taxi duties
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The end goal here is a six-seat Tensor capable of air taxi duties
Inverted triple tail design
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Inverted triple tail design
Pusher prop on the back of the cabin provides forward propulsion
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Pusher prop on the back of the cabin provides forward propulsion
The Tensor 600 will offer range figures up to 600 km at cruise speeds up to 200 km/h
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The Tensor 600 will offer range figures up to 600 km at cruise speeds up to 200 km/h
The Tensor's slim front profile
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The Tensor's slim front profile
The Tensor 600X: both a personal flight product and a tech demonstrator
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The Tensor 600X: both a personal flight product and a tech demonstrator
Top view of the Tensor 600X
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Top view of the Tensor 600X
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Germany's Fraundorfer Aeronautics has unveiled its Tensor 600X gyroplane at the European Rotors show. It's a two-seat design mainly targeted at personal use, but the company claims it'll soon scale up to a certified six-seater for air taxi purposes.

Gyroplanes offer an interesting middle ground between airplane and helicopter designs. Much of their lift is provided by a large top rotor, similar to that on top of a helicopter, but during flight, the rotor's not powered by the engine or motor. Instead, forward airspeed keeps them rotating enough to provide lift, and the free-spinning top rotor can do this well enough to autorotate gently to the ground in many power-out situations.

In zero-wind conditions, it takes very little forward speed to generate enough lift for a gyroplane to take off; and given enough of a headwind, they can just about lift off vertically. Forward propulsion, often provided by a pusher prop, is enough to keep them in the air in an efficient and agile fashion.

Fraundorfer has been working for many years now, to try to scale gyroplane technology up beyond the hobby market. The company believes its "R01 high performance" top rotor will be capable of lifting significantly heavier loads than the current competition – enough to handle a six-seat version that Fraundorfer wants to get commercially certified and into service carrying cargo and doing air taxi duties by somewhere around 2025.

The end goal here is a six-seat Tensor capable of air taxi duties
The end goal here is a six-seat Tensor capable of air taxi duties

So the Tensor 600X is both a hobbyist product and a tech demonstrator for this future aircraft. As such, its capabilities don't particularly stand out; running a Rotax 915iS engine, it can take off from 90 m (300 ft) of runway at its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 600 kg (1,323 lb), and land in just 20 m (70 ft).

Minimum flight speed is 50 km/h (31 mph), and it'll cruise at speeds up to 200 km/h (124 mph) up to a maximum altitude of 3,000 m (10,000 ft). It'll offer a range around 600 km (373 miles) at 185 km/h (115 mph), running on premium pump gas or avgas.

We don't know how much fuel it carries to get this kind of range, but these specs all track reasonably closely against those of the US$136,000 AutoGyro Cavalon, an equally German aircraft that's been around since 2011 and has sold hundreds of units. This despite the fact that the Tensor 600X has a decent-sized pair of wings, which contribute up to 30 percent of the aircraft's lift at speed, and the Cavalon doesn't. So we'd hope the 600X achieves its range on less than the 25.9 gal (98 L) of fuel that the Cavalon uses.

The Tensor 600X: both a personal flight product and a tech demonstrator
The Tensor 600X: both a personal flight product and a tech demonstrator

Fraundorfer says the Tensor design can easily be adapted to battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell powertrains – and we'd certainly see clean energy as a vital part of any long-term plans to use these things for cross-town or inter-city air taxi applications. Still, according to the company, this design is already about twice as efficient as a helicopter and significantly quieter to boot.

There don't appear to be any plans for full gyrodyne-style VTOL capabilities here, so the Tensor will still need runways at either end of any trip. That will severely limit the design's utility as the air taxi market gets up and running within a few years, as it'll be competing against a barrage of electric VTOL aircraft that can use helipads on top of buildings.

You can see the Tensor 600X's fun-looking maiden flight from February last year in the video below.

Maiden flight, Erstflug Tensor 600X Fraundorfer Aeronautics

Source: Fraundorfer Aeronautics via Flyer

View gallery - 8 images
17 comments
17 comments
Steven Clarkson
Nice, but as stated it's still a gyro and still requires a runway of 90 meters to take off. I'm sure they will have a place in their own market/category, but won't be able to compete within the niche market of EVTOLS / multicopters.
David
Yeah! Cue the Bond theme, dude. ;-)
Ancliff
"won't be able to compete" Won't need to. These are going to cost a tiny fraction of EVTOLS / multicopters. Totally different category.
paul314
If the runway needed is only 100m, I'm not sure that's really going to make it less competitive against ostensible VTOL machines. Helicopters typically need substantial clearance around landing/takeoff areas, and people who think they're going to be putting down and taking off on urban streets are asking for a world of pain. (And if the gyros really want to go VTOL from a fixed base, a bank of fans could do the job nicely.)
Towerman
"Won't need to. These are going to cost a tiny fraction of EVTOLS / multicopters."

No won't be able to, a gyroplane / gyrocopter needs a runway multicopters don't. Yes in the sense of won't need to thats what SC said, a gyroplane/copter will still have it's own niche market for the time being.

EVTOL's will become cheaper as they are being mass produced.
guzmanchinky
I used to own a Skyboy ultralight/experimental and this looks way more interesting to fly.
Aermaco
@Ancliff, Steven is correct that it can't compete with eVTOLs due to the runway requirement. The costs will be similar as both have many moving parts so it can't win there either. You are correct it is a totally different category and may very well find many users there given its much greater emergency landing safety.
PAV
Perhaps I missed it, or maybe it's just understood, but is this gyro copter capable of making a stalled unpowered landing? If so, then that is a definite advantage over an evtol.
Catweazle
Anyone else remember the 1954 McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane?
TechGazer
There's also the option of powering the rotor and adding the blade angle mechanism for vertical liftoff. Several models of gyros use this method, using weights on the ends of the rotors so that spinning it up requires only a small amount of power, stored via inertia.
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