When I returned to rocketry as a BAR I became facinated with helicopter recovery. Helicopter recovery is challenging and rewarding alternate recovery for rockets. Some rockets use rotors to create lift and slowly and gently recover the rocket. Other rockets may use they gyro principle with existing fins or even break apart and float down like a maple seed. I am always pleased with the reaction of the crowd at launches when they see a successful helicopter recovery. I have created this guide to help others consider trying this form of recovery.
How are the recovery devices deployed?
Helicopter and Gyro recovery models use various ingenious ways to deploy their recovery devices.
The most common method for a standard helicopter is the “burn string”. The “burn string”, usually made from elastic thread, is strung through holes in the body tube above the motor and then wrapped around the rotors holding them down against the body tube. When the motor fires its ejection charge the string burns through releasing the rotors which are usually pulled up by rubber bands.
The Chicago Chopper and some other helicopter style rockets simply use the ejection charge to separate the body tube in such away the the rotors are free.
Maple seed recovery rockets are usually made up of two body tubes that separate creating a “spin unit” and a “stabilizer unit” that both gently spin to the ground.
Other rockets like the Gyroc have tabs on the hinged fins that are held in place by the motor. When the motor is ejected from the rocket the tabs release allowing the hinged fins to snap into recovery spin mode. You can view some of my gyro/copter rockets and some of fellow rocketeers at my
Video 600fps of Copter Recovery at NARAM 52
Currently Available Kits
Pancakes – now OOP
NEW! The CYCLONE (now a kit!!! This kit by Chris Michielssen out performs all of my scratch builds of the Cyclone. I highly recommend it)
Available Classic Kits
Helio Copter (Estes) -(currently unavailable)
Skywinder (Estes)-(currently unavailable)
Plans for rockets using helio or gyro recovery
Midwest Weedwhacker (on page 5)
Classic Plans to Scratch Build
Rocketry Blog Helicopter Posts
G powered Monocopter Launch
1934 Copter Recovery Concept
The Roton – research Rotor recovery vehicle
Roton Flight Video