Aside from the plane, the helicopter is the only other vehicle capable of heavier than air flight. Until recently, it was also the only vehicle that is capable of vertical lift-off. These characteristics make it interesting to know who invented the helicopter as it is an undeniably unique vehicle.
If the question ‘who invented the helicopter’ pertains to the individual who first designed a vehicle resembling the modern helicopter, then the inventor of the helicopter is undeniably Leonardo da Vinci. The quintessential Renaissance Man, da Vinci did not limit himself to the arts. He also dabbled into engineering. In fact, da Vinci indicated that his occupation is a military engineer, as he designed numerous machines and contraptions of war for Italian warlords during his time. This is in stark contrast with his popular image as an artist, an image that owes to the popularity of his Mona Lisa.
Leonardo da Vinci can very well be considered as the man who invented the helicopter, if the only criterion for being the inventor of the helicopter is to become the first to create a design plan of a helicopter. This is because he is the first individual to come up with the concept of a vehicle that flies vertically. In his notes, he called this helicopter prototype a ‘flying screw’ due to its distinct flying pattern.
Many helicopter designs have been created centuries after da Vinci’s. Such designs include that of Lomonosov and d’Amecourt both of which, like da Vinci’s, remained on the drawing board and did not actually lift off the ground. They may not be candidates for being the ones who invented the helicopter but they nevertheless advanced the principles that will help the future pioneers perfect the technology behind the flight of the helicopter.
The distinction of being the first inventor to design a helicopter AND actually make it fly goes to Paul Cornu, a French engineer who managed to make his helicopter prototype stay aloft for 20 seconds. His flight was not the actual first though since there was another French inventor who managed to make their design to lift off the ground but it was tethered and supported to keep it from falling apart. Because of this, the Cornu helicopter is considered to be the first modern helicopter since it was the first one to lift off vertically without any support. This achievement gives Paul Cornu the credit as the man who invented the helicopter.
The helicopter is one unique flying vehicle due to its distinct way of lifting off to the skies. This uniqueness makes it indispensable for certain tasks which the airplane simply cannot undertake effectively such as search and rescue missions. As such, we owe a lot to the individuals who invented the helicopter for bringing such a one of a kind flying vehicle into life.