Modern day helicopters are incredible! They are able to fly at high speeds, hover safely over one area, move sideways, and land on very small areas. They are used for everything from crime-fighting and emergency rescue to tracking wildlife and providing skiers with access to beautiful, remote mountain sides. It is amazing to think that the original plans for the helicopter were conceived over 500 years ago!
Leonardo da Vinci began working with helicopter designs in 1500. He never built a test model, however. It wasn't until 1907, when two French brothers, Louis and Jacques Brequet, made a two-rotor copter - that the first successful helicopter flight was made. It took another 30 years for the first fully functional helicopter to be designed.
The helicopter is a specialized airplane. While an airplane is able to fly only vertically, a helicopter is able to fly in both vertical and horizontal directions. This unique flying ability comes from combining LIFT and THRUST, the two wing forces that keep an airplane aloft, into a single location - the rotating blade on top of a helicopter. Actually this blade, or MAIN ROTOR, is a wing moving at the speed of a propeller.