VTOL is an acronym for vertical take-off and landing aircraft. This classification includes fixed-wing aircraft that can hover, take off and land vertically as well as helicopters and other aircraft with powered rotors, such as tiltrotors. Autogyros, balloons, airships and rockets are not normally considered VTOL, but may be termed VTVL (vertical takeoff with vertical landing). Some VTOL aircraft can operate in other modes as well, such as CTOL (conventional take-off and landing), STOL (short take-off and landing), and/or STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing). Others, such as some helicopters, can only operate by VTOL, due to the aircraft lacking landing gear that can handle horizontal motion. VTOL is a subset of V/STOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing).
Besides the ubiquitous helicopter, there are currently two types of VTOL aircraft in military service: craft using a tiltrotor, such as the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, and aircraft using directed jet thrust such as the Harrier family.
In addition to the helicopter, many approaches have been tried to develop practical aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. Nikola Tesla patented a vertical take-off and landing vehicle concept in 1928. An early functional contribution to VTOL was Rolls-Royce's Thrust Measuring Rig ("flying bedstead") of 1953. This led to the first VTOL engines as used in the first British VTOL aircraft, the Short SC.1 (1957) which used 4 vertical lift engines with a horizontal one for forward thrust.
Another British VTOL project was the gyrodyne, where a rotor is powered during take-off and landing but which then freewheels during flight, with separate propulsion engines providing forward thrust. Starting with the Fairey Gyrodyne, this type of aircraft later evolved into the much larger twin-engined Fairey Rotodyne, that used tipjets to power the rotor on take-off and landing but which then used two Napier Eland turboprops driving conventional propellers mounted on substantial wings to provide propulsion, the wings serving to unload the rotor during horizontal flight. The Rotodyne was developed to combine the efficiency of a fixed-wing aircraft at cruise with the VTOL capability of a helicopter to provide short haul airliner service from city centres to airports.
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