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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedRocket-powered light rotorcraft makes world debut
By James Wynbrandt

Ricardo Cavalcanti, president and CEO of Avimech International Aircraft, Inc., and the Dragonfly, hydrogen peroxide rocket-powered. Photo by James Wynbrandt

With concerns about carbon emissions and non-renewable fuels climbing, the diminutive Dragonfly, a one-person light rotorcraft, has gotten airborne at an auspicious moment. It's "The first green helicopter in the world," says Ricardo Cavalcanti, president and CEO of Avimech International Aircraft, Inc., based in Tucson, Arizona (www.tipjetusa.com), the Dragonfly's manufacturer.

The Dragonfly is powered by a pair of 102-hp hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket engines, each about 8 inches long and weighing 1.3 pounds, placed at the tip of the rotorcraft's twin aluminum blades. The exhaust gas is water vapor. Cavalcanti notes that hydrogen peroxide is a readily available and inexhaustible fuel, and currently sells for about $3.60 per gallon.

The helicopter is making its world debut at AirVenture, but it's been in development for more than a half-century, Cavalcanti says. The project was initiated in the mid-1950s by the U.S. Navy, and went through various hands before Cavalcanti took control three years ago. He spent the years since 2007 "locked in a room," reviewing engineering drawings and mathematics, refining the design and building the prototype. The Dragonfly received FAA certification in November 2009.

Because it uses rocket power generated at the blade tips, there is no torque, making the Dragonfly much easier to operate than conventional rotorcraft. It has no rudder pedals or hydraulic system. The tail rotor is used simply to turn the aircraft in circles, not to counteract rotor torque. With fewer moving parts than a conventional helicopter, the Dragonfly is less expensive to make, less prone to failure, and easier to maintain, Cavalcanti says.

The Dragonfly's gross weight is 1,250 pounds and empty weight is 250, providing an 800-pound useful load. Rate of climb is 2,300 fpm, and cruise speed is 50 mph, while the 22 gallon tank provides 1.5 hours of endurance at the burn rate of 11 gph.

Cavalcanti says the rockets can be powered by fuels other than hydrogen peroxide, and that the engines can be used on other aircraft. A 200-hp variant of the engine is powering a two-seat version of the Dragonfly the company has already developed, according to Cavalcanti. He believes there is a market for about 220 of the one-place helicopters per year. It is available with option packages for use in aerial application (crop spraying), Search and Rescue, border patrol, and emergency response. The Dragonfly is priced at $120,000. Five are built and are being offered as a show special at AirVenture for $84,000 with a Kevlar helmet, flight vest, factory training, and free delivery anywhere in the Continental United States.

This is Cavalcanti's first visit to AirVenture since his initial visit in 1996.

"I feel I'm home," he said. "I feel I'm brining something that is very important for transportation, and very important for light helicopters."

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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