Niki Rotor Aviation, an aircraft manufacturer from the small town of Pravets in central Bulgaria, has been conquering the gyrocopters market during recent years and is included among the key manufacturers in the industry. Their product, the gyrocopter (or autogyro), is a hybrid between an airplane and a helicopter. The main advantage that gyrocopters have over helicopters is that they cost less and are easier to maintain, and are mostly used for low-speed surveillance and military operations, but can also be deployed in agriculture and personal use, and recreation.
While the Bulgarian company was established in 1994 and mostly worked on manufacturing helicopters, they produced their first gyrocopter ten years later, in 2004. The two current models that Niki Rotor Aviation produced are called “Lightning” and “Kallithea”. The bodies of the aircraft are made out of composite materials, combined together with aluminum and plywood.
All elements such as the tail, wheel pants, landing gear are produced from carbon, while all metal parts such as control sticks, pedals, rotor head, and precise metal parts and elements are manufactured by the company.
“Our efforts are focused on optimizing the flying performance of our high-end products; improve all components by 100% in-house production and high-quality procedures; intelligent systems and software to manage all single detail so that we have created the perfect aerodynamic shape combining elegance, style, and a personal touch”, Miglena Nikolova, managing director at Niki Rotor Aviation tells The Recursive.
The company has more than 160 employees and is currently placing its products on the markets in the US, Germany, France, Czech Republic, and Hungary. Niki Rotor is looking to expand to markets such as Canada and Australia. One of the plans for the company’s founder and CEO Nikolay Nikolov include building the first Bulgarian helicopter with, as he says “enviable technical parameters”, that would be available on the global market.
Dynamic, yet safe flying
“The autogyro is the safest aircraft ever invented by man. At the same time, it is significantly more economical than airplanes and helicopters and offers more dynamic flying. In our design, you can fly with doors or take them down, and this does not change the flight parameters of the machine – we combine two machines into one. The autogyro is a machine that flies low, about 1 meter high and can fly at 30 kilometers per hour – and no other aircraft can do that”, the company’s CEO Nikolay Nikolov explained in an interview with Forbes.
According to him, Niki Rotor’s previous experience with manufacturing helicopters was decisive when it came to the idea of producing gyrocopters.
“The goal was to build a helicopter entirely of composite, two-seater with a maximum lightweight construction. We started with the most complex aircraft of all, and after several years of hard work, we came to ground trials. Unfortunately, we were not able to fly and found that we have a lot to learn about construction, but for me and my team, it was a great challenge. We were not ready for a helicopter, but we gained a lot of experience and so we started working in the direction of autogyros”, Nikolov said in the interview.
While autogyros are popular almost all around the world, their use in the Balkans for example is something that is yet to become popular, Miglena Nikolova says.
“In the Balkans, people need to hear more about gyrocopters as aircraft, since there are many who don’t know anything about the gyrocopter, about how it functions, how the flights are done and so on”, Nikolova explains.