World's smallest helicopter to take flight

Image: Smallest helicopter
A company employee of Japan's Gen Corporation flies the one-manned GEN H-4 during its test flight.Gen Corporation via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Japanese man who developed the world's smallest helicopter will take flight in the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci in tribute to the Renaissance genius' original idea.

Gennai Yanagisawa, 75, said Thursday that a demonstration flight of his one-man helicopter is planned in the city of Vinci, near Florence, Italy, on May 25.

Yanagisawa developed the GEN H-4 helicopter — with rotors, a chair, footrest and handle bar — in the late 1990s.

"The concept of my helicopter comes from Italy, and I've always wanted to fly it in da Vinci's birthplace," Yanagisawa told The Associated Press from Japan's central city of Matsumoto, where he runs an electronics equipment company. "I'm very excited."

Renaissance-era visionary da Vinci designed an "aerial screw" in the 1480s — believed to be the first portrayal of a vertical-flight machine, according to Italy's National Museum of Science and Technology.

The GEN H-4 has two rotors turning in opposite directions to maintain stability, and four engines that enables a 30-minute flight with a top speed of about 56 miles per hour.

Yanagisawa said Vinci Mayor Dario Parrini offered him an opportunity to fly his helicopter when the two met in the Italian city in February.

"Italian people seem to welcome my realizing of da Vinci's idea in his birthplace," he said. "I want to make my best flight so that I can live up to their expectations."

Although the 165-pound helicopter can ascend up to 165 yards, Yanagisawa said he will fly 16.5 feet above ground during his three, 10-minute demonstrations "so the audience can see me and enjoy the flight."

A Guinness World Records spokeswoman confirmed the recognition of Yanagisawa's helicopter as the world's smallest model in terms of weight and rotor length of 13 feet.

Yanagisawa has sold five GEN H-4s in Japan and two in the U.S. for recreational use. The helicopters sell for about 6 million yen or $57,140.

"I hope someday this can be used just like a scooter," he said.