Follow TV Tropes


Future Copter

Go To

You're in an unspecified future, and you need an aircraft capable of short or vertical takeoffs. Helicopters are so 20th century: they can't do all that fancy supercruising and barrel rolls that jets can do and they (probably) can't survive being dropped from orbit because well, hey, you might just need to be dropped from orbit. So you don't want a helicopter, but you also don't want anything as conventional looking as a VTOL airplane, either.

What you need is a futurecopter. These machines come in a variety of sizes, ranging from dinky sized models about the size of an RC toy, a one-man unit (with optional handholds on the sides for external passengers), through unmanned autonomous versions (best steer well clear of these) the size of a Hummer, right up to beasts the size of a civil cruiser capable of transporting dozens of fully armed troops complete with an airlifted Awesome Personnel Carrier or a Cool Tank. Size and operation aside, what they almost invariably have is ducted fans or tilting jet engines (either one or two pairs, one on each side of the fuselage, and usually independently tiltable) for lift and thrust and stubby, vestigial wings with an assortment of guns, missiles and bombs, if there were any wings at all. And, in compliance to the all-powerful Rule of Cool, you can expect the aircraft to be as fast as a jet, as agile as a helicopter and as armed as a fighter-bomber. The pilot, if present, is invariably right up front in what looks like a conventional helicopter gunship cockpit.

These aircraft aren't always a major element of the stories they appear in—they're just as likely to be background details, put in to add a "futuristic" atmosphere. Just as airships are often used as a shorthand for alternate-history settings, ducted fan aircraft often serve as a visual cue for a setting that's futuristic, but not entirely far removed from our own. As the stereotypical "futuristic aircraft" of today, it could also be considered the successor trope to the Flying Car—and indeed, many fictional Futurecopters are used more or less like airborne cars.

The probable Trope Maker, the Bell X-22, was a purely experimental aircraft not intended for mass production. More are being developed, however, with many of them approaching production status, which could potentially make this Truth in Television in the near future. One might also, with some imagination, consider existing tilt-rotor aircraft like the V-22 Osprey to be a very primitive version of this idea, although its rotors/propellers are firmly locked together and very much not ducted, and it has big, conventional wings. Some of the contenders for the US Army's Future Vertical Lift program have taken tentative steps toward the idea.

For the portable version, see Helicopter Pack.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Vehicles like this are seen in Bubblegum Crisis. In the first episode, we see a small police attack chopper, the size of a small car, that's the helicopter equivalent of a motorcycle or Three/Quad-Wheel ATV with a gatling gun slung underneath. Larger models appear in the series that use a huge single ducted rotor that the vehicle is nearly built around. The Knight Sabers themselves use a dual-rotored military aerodyne. They use a newer, more heavily-armed custom model in Bubblegum Crash.
  • In Doraemon there exists helicopter propellers a person can attach to the top of their head to allow unlimited mind-guided flight, making this also a case of Hat of Flight. All of the main characters have one, which they use for long-distance group travel where they know they won't be spotted or if a more standard vehicle won't work.
  • Ghost in the Shell has Tiltrotors, a dual-engine plane whose wings rotate upward 90 degrees in order to take off in standard VTOL style.
    • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, these are the standard method of transportation in service for Section Nine, as well as the requisite black choppers. Some civilian airports use them as well, though standard jet-engine airliners exist too.
      • They have standard single-rotor helicopters as well. Section 9 has to steal one from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force in order to resolve a conflict in the 2nd season. the JSDF also employs Jigabachi-class attack helicopters, which are designed after hornets. When getting ready to attack, the helicopter rears back and aims the minigun on its abdomen towards its target. The wasp-fashioned attack helicopters make for an interesting animal motif, considering that the tanks in this setting are all of the Spider Tank variety, fitting in with one standard mission of attack choppers: tank busting.
    • Innocence throws in a bird theme by featuring a tiltrotor whose wings extend outward upon takeoff, and the wings themselves are made up of numerous individual lift flaps. One scene shows the raven-like tiltrotor landing on top of a rooftop, and the individual flaps of the wings look like feathers.
  • Though Gundam normally focuses on the Mobile Suits, there are a few examples here and there. Notably the Fanfan from Mobile Suit Gundam and the VTOL Fighter from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.
  • The JSSDF VTOLs from Neon Genesis Evangelion have tilting jet engines.

    Comic Books 
  • The Zorglumobile from Spirou & Fantasio looks like a flying saucer (especially in profile), but is actually a quad ducted-fan machine.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • Adam Gibson from The 6th Day is a future helicopter pilot. Naturally, the copters he flies are Futurecopters, with the ability to switch to a high-speed jet mode and be flown remotely using a Power Glove-like arrangement. They must be some kind of Awesome, but Impractical (or at least Cool, but Inefficient) novelty design in-universe however, because the much wealthier Big Bad's helicopter is a much more pedestrian design that wouldn't stand out much in the present day.
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: The amphibicopter, notable not only for If It Swims, It Flies but for lacking rotors while still serving as a helicopter.
  • In Aliens, the Colonial Marines' dropship is a fully spaceworthy version of the design.
  • The RDA in Avatar makes use of several ducted-fan aircraft: the Scorpion, a classic assault helicopter, the Samson, used for personnel transport and heavy lifting, and the truly massive, four-rotored Dragon Gunship.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, the Batman is equipped with a Futurecopter known as... The Bat. It's available in black.
  • Dune and Dune: Part Two: Ornithopters are utilized on Arakis by both off-world factions. They use vertical flapping wings to levitate and move, and in this intepretation, the ornithopters flap their wings like a dragonfly. The 1984 version instead did away with the flapping wings and has small VTOL aircrafts.
  • Orbit-capable versions of these machines seem common on Earth in Elysium, and the main antagonist, Kruger, spends a fair proportion of the movie getting about in a particularly heavily-armed one. Oddly, however, on Elysium itself, more conventional rotorcraft seem to be preferred (probably to avoid polluting the air?).
  • In Just Imagine, everyone has a personal airplane with vertical rotor ducts in the wings enabling them to hover while they talk to other drivers or burst into song. Interestingly, it predates the Trope Codifier (or indeed, most other examples of the trope) by a good three decades.
  • Oblivion (2013): The V/TOL craft that Jack flies around, the "Bubble Ship", with guns (which can fire in any direction, even straight backwards), autopilot (and remote piloting), ejecting cockpit, voice-recognition lock, remotely accessible surveillance cameras, storage space for a Cool Bike, and the capacity to fly up to space.
  • Sleeper: In 2173, we'll have helicopter backpacks... but they won't work very well.
  • The Vulture suit from Spider-Man: Homecoming has VTOL rotors in addition to wings.
  • Team America: World Police have their own Futurecopter that deploys from the mouth of Abraham Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore.
  • The Hunter-Killer Aerials from The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are of the ducted jet engine VTOL type. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines features small, autonomous prototypes which pursue the heroes.
  • Things to Come: A gyrocopter is used to ferry the Bold Explorers to the giant gun that will shoot them into outer space, avoiding the Evil Luddite mob that has gathered to stop them.
  • The federal police copters in Total Recall (2012).

  • Brave New World also did this as far back as the 1930s with an early example of small personal helicopters used, Flying Car-style, for short urban distances, à la the above example of Just Imagine.
  • The Ornithopters from Dune are something between a Trope Maker and Ur-Example. While, like with most of Dune there is a lot ambiguity of what exactly they look like, the thopters, are, well, ornithopters. That is to say that they move by flapping their wings, like an insect or bird depending on your interpretation. So while they popularized the idea of future people moving around in a non helicopter VTOL, few other works went with that specific route.
  • The Formic Wars novels feature a mix between this and a Hover Tank. The new vehicles developed by Jukes, Ltd., use Artificial Gravity as their primary means of propulsion (by projecting a "gravity lens" above the craft, thus keeping it aloft). However, as backup, they include deployable rotors. Two of these are developed for and purchased by the New Zealand SAS. A certain Lieutenant Mazer Rackham pilots one of them. He mentions that the rotors are useless for the craft's primary purpose — extraction under fire. The craft is supposed to fly in low, almost grazing treetops, in order to minimize its radar signature, extend an arm, grab the ground vehicle in need of extraction, fly away, and transfer the crew and/or passengers aboard, all without getting shot down. However, given how low the craft is flying, the rotors would simply not have enough time to deploy in case of "gravity lens" failure. This is proven true during the Formic invasion, resulting in Mazer being the only survivor of the crew. When China expresses an interest in purchasing these from Jukes, Mazer points out to his commanding officer that the company has an exclusive agreement with New Zealand for the craft. The CO explains that China can afford to buy many more such vehicles than just 2, so Jukes would rather pay New Zealand a fine than bother keeping to the terms of the contract. Instead, Mazer will be sent to China to teach Chinese pilots how to fly these things.
  • In Grand Theft Astro, ornithopters are the only kind of aircraft employed on Saturn's moon Titan. It's the only place in the Solar System where 'thopters can be used due to Titan's unique combination of low gravity and dense atmosphere. In addition, other forms of propulsion can be dangerous in a methane atmosphere due to the chance of a spark igniting the gas (although you still need oxygen for the fire to happen).
  • Known Space stories frequently mention similar craft as "cars", but their descriptions tend to be sketchy. A Gift from Earth mentions that Plateau cars have four fans and only the upper caste is allowed to drive cars. To add some confusion, stories set later (e.g., Ringworld) use the word "car" for anti-gravity craft.
  • Albatross in Robur the Conqueror. Future for 1880s, that is. Strictly speaking, it has separate rotors for lift and thrust, making it a gyrodyne.
  • Space Cadet (Heinlein): The Farm Boy protagonist is picked up by a helicopter, which doesn't seem too strange until you realise it's a personal helicopter that his family fly themselves, their version of a family car — he mentions getting his copter license at the age of 12.
  • Several different versions (from supersonic gunships to massive transports) are seen in The War Against the Chtorr series, often piloted by the protagonist's love interest, Colonel Badass 'Lizard' Tirelli.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Big Bad Beetleborgs's ladybug aircraft fit the trope.
  • The ornithopters in Frank Herbert's Dune and its sequel appear to be this. While their wings may move up and down a little to adjust pitch, they don't flap like the 'thopters in the book and are more bug-like than bird-like in appearance. The miniseries' carryalls are of the "Future Copter" variety as well, complete with prominent ducted fans mounted on four extrusions from the hull of the craft.
  • Space: Above and Beyond had the Inter Solar System Cargo Vessel (ISSCV), a drop ship which functioned on the show as a combination between a shuttle and a helicopter, using tilting thrusters on the wings to switch between VTOL and horizontal flight. The ISSCV was also modular, being able to switch out between different setups specialized for cargo, passengers, gunships, etc. Also, the modules could be attached or detached on the fly, allowing a ISSCV to drop off a module filled with cargo or personnel and take off to points elsewhere, while the Marines could use the module as a command post or bunker.
  • Super Sentai has had a few, starting with Rescue Sentai GoGoFive's Green Hover, as well as the Pat-Gyrer from Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger (whose cowlings form a set of Humongous Mecha-scale handcuffs when it combines into Dekaranger Robo) and the GouGou Gyro in GoGo Sentai Boukenger.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech features several futuristic VTOL vehicles, such as the Aeron and Yasha. The massive Anhur and Karnov transport VTOLs both use tiltrotor engines like those on the V-22 Osprey.
  • Generic RPG supplement Booty and the Beasts. The Whirly Chair is exactly what it says: a chair with overhead helicopter rotors. It has a maximum speed of 30 m.p.h. and a range of 300 miles on a tank of alcohol. It seats one person and has a small cargo area, enough for a small overnight bag or suitcase.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Blight Drone and the larger Foetid Bloat-Drone Daemon Engines that often accompany the forces of the Chaos God Nurgle are hideous amalgams of diseased flesh and rusted metal held aloft by multiple engine fans that allow them to hover across the battlefield in imitation of the bloated flies that are the sacred animal of the Plague God.
    • The Stormtalon Gunships operated by the Adeptus Astartes are powered by a pair of vectored engines on either side of the hull that allow the aircraft to easily switch between high-speed flight and stable hover modes so that it can fulfil a number of different combat roles from interceptor to ground attack and direct infantry support.
    • In the 2nd Edition of the Epic version of the game system, the Iron Eagle Attack Gyrocopter is the primary aircraft used by the Squat Engineers Guild. The Iron Eagle has a high-powered turbofan mounted on each side of its hull which, when combined with the aircraft’s gravitic thrusters, gives the flying machine phenomenal manoeuvrability.

  • G.I. Joe featured small, one-person VTOL craft as early as 1984, with the Joes' Skyhawk and Cobra Flight Pod, even as most of the vehicles at the time were at least strongly influenced by real-life versions. The Skyhawk itself looks like a sawed-off helicopter cockpit strapped to some turbines and landing skids. As the toyline began using more experimental or futuristic designs, we got vehicles such as the G.I. Joe Skystorm (a jet helicopter whose X-rotors can convert to a fixed-wing mode) and Iron Grenadiers A.G.P. ("anti-gravity pod", though operating on the same principles as the Skyhawk). Note that the H.A.V.O.C.'s recon sled and Battleforce 2000's Vindicator also use ducted fans to generate lift, but both are designated as hovercraft, even if the Vindicator has a helicopter-style tailfin.
  • Many newer (post-1990) LEGO sets with a futuristic theme.
  • Mega Force (Kenner Toys)
  • Although he didn't turn into one in the movie (rather, he turned into anything he wanted to), Laserbeak from Transformers: Dark of the Moon turned into one of these in the toyline.

    Video Games 
  • Of the 20 Minutes into the Future variety, there's the massive V-44 Heavy Transport VTOL Rotorcraft from Act of War. The V-44 looks like an Osprey but has 4 rotors instead of 2, as a transport it can hold up to 2 vehicles (3 if they're small) or 8 soldiers and protect itself with a twin-barrelled 7.62mm Gatling gun. If upgraded the Osprey gets a stealth mode that makes it invisible until it attacks or is detected by enemy recon units.
  • Battlefield 2142 has two futurecopters from two opposing sides of the conflict, the Talon for the EU and the Doragon for the PAC.
  • One of the trailers for the Beyond Good & Evil sequel feature a craft like this.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II has two very different futurecopters. The impressive-sounding MQ-27 Dragonfire is actually a small RC quadrotor with a light machine gun on board. The more boringly-named VTOL Warship, by contrast, is a huge, manned, heavily armed vehicle of comparable size to the real-world V-22 Osprey.
  • The GDI Orca and its variants from the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series are ducted-rotor/jet-engine VTOLs. Some variants go as far as being a Drop Ship. Nod counterparts eventually surfaced in the second half of the entire series, such as the Venom strike craft, which, unlike GDI's Orca gunship, is capable of air-to-air combat, although falls significantly short in this role to GDI's own Firehawk.
  • Enclave Vertibirds in the Fallout series are clearly inspired by the V-22 Osprey.
  • About halfway through Freedom Planet, Serpentine pilots a large, vaguely military-looking helicopter as a boss battle. The chopper can deploy an unlimited number of Shade Troopers, though only two can be present on the ground at a time, and its wings are packed with guns and missiles.
  • G-Police and its sequel feature VTOLs that eschew the idea of rotors altogether — they are powered by two jets on the sides. Why they still have the classic helicopter shape — lopsided tail included — is never explained.
  • Combine gunships from Half-Life 2 have a single ducted fan.
  • Halo:
    • The Pelican Drop Ship is a pretty close cousin of the dropship from Aliens and is similarly orbital-drop capable.
    • Halo 3 introduced a one-man aircraft called Hornets, which have external handles allowing other players to hitch a ride.
    • Halo Wars introduces the Sparrowhawk, which is armed with two autocannons and a Spartan Laser, and the Vulture, a heavy gunship suspended by ducted fans that's armed with four autocannons and an insane amount of missiles. Halo Wars 2 introduces the Condor Gunship, an improvised variant of the Condor transport equipped with a mini-Magnetic Accelerator Cannon and multiple pulse laser turrets.
    • In Halo: Reach, the Hornet is replaced by the Falcon, extremely similar to the V-22 Osprey but smaller, with LMGs on the open sides and jet engines.
    • Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer has the Wasp, a light gunship with twin autocannons and missile launchers, plus recharging energy shields.
  • Appropriately enough, the Fawfulcopters in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. They are small, unmanned drones equipped with an arm to hold things, such as keys, and a speaker of which Fawful can use to talk to other people from a distance.
  • MechWarrior: Living Legends has two gunship VTOLS, the Hawkmoth and Donar, whose jet engines take the place of the rotor blades in their canon art. Additionally, two Dummied Out transport VTOLs were planned, the Karnov and Anhur, both of which are massive tiltrotor craft that were originally planned to carry battlearmor and small vehicles — problems with the vehicles bouncing around in the back, crushing all the other riders then exploding the craft, along with an aircraft physics change caused both to be put on the development backburner.
  • The Chrysalis Pod in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is an automated drone example of this.
  • The ducted fan "hovercopter" in Perfect Dark, and Killian's VTOL tilt-jet troop transport/gunship in Perfect Dark Zero.
  • Almost all aircraft in PlanetSide 2 operate using gimballed jet engines, which function like the tiltrotors on an Osprey. The Galaxy transport, for example, gets a pair of huge engines on its front wings and a smaller pair on its rear wings, all of which can rotate to allow the enormous aircraft to hover in place or fly. The only ones that don't use external rotating engines are the Reaver (in-line vectored engines) and the Scythe (flies using reverse-engineered Vanu technology).
  • Red Alert 3: The Soviet's Twinblade helicopter has two rotors (hence the name) and is a decent infantry-killer and base raider, but its most useful ability is to carry infantry and vehicles (even the monstrous Apocalypse tank) and drop them off safely.
  • Red Faction II has ducted fan gunships.
  • Soldier of Fortune II has two boss fights with an Osprey expy gunship, although it is considerably smaller and the rotors can tilt independently unlike the real Osprey. A legitimate helicopter makes an appearance in a couple earlier missions.
  • StarCraft II:
    • Banshee tactical strike aircraft use ducted fans and, for some reason, a tail rotor. They're also able to cloak themselves and move in space... somehow.
    • Medivac and Dropship use twin jet engines that visibly swing back and forth when moving or hovering.
  • Saints Row: The Third: S.T.A.G.'s F-69 Vertical Take-Off and Landing jet has the ability to shift between a jet form and a hovering form, by using hyper-force turbines within its wings. The boss explicitly calls it "a helicopter that doesn't suck".


    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers episode "Bronto Bear", the Black hole gang use a futuristic copter to rile up the titular Rent-a-Zilla.
  • They show up quite a bit in Generator Rex, usually being used by Providence.
  • Global Justice field tilt-fan VTOL craft when they appear in Kim Possible, and when Ron briefly becomes a multi-millionaire, he buys an aircraft for Kim that resembles an Osprey with jets instead of rotors.
  • Cybertron-mode Megatron from Transformers: Animated turns into a Cybertronic VTOL fighter for a split-second in the show's pilot episode. When he is rebuilt in his Earth mode at the end of Season 1, he now turns into yes, a modern V-22 Osprey helicopter. Or, more accurately, an Osprey cross-bred with a Mi-24 "Hind" gunship.
  • Thrust in Transformers: Generation 1 transforms into a ducted fan VTOL jet.

    Real Life 
  • Apparently, this lightweight tiltrotor aircraft that wouldn't look out of place in any 20 Minutes into the Future movie, can fly on purely electric power. While far from production, the prototype already made successful demonstration flights.
  • The Bell X-22, one of the first experimental VTOL designs, featured four large duct-ed rotating propellers for flight. Since the X-22 pre-dates most of the film and TV examples mentioned above, it may well be the Trope Maker. Oddly though the aircraft was just suppose to test VTOL flight characteristics, the military never expected to use the ducted fans on operational vehicles.
  • The Bell Model 65, which was built before the X-22, was essentially a futurecopter of the "tilt-jet" variety, with two jet engines that could switch between vertical and horizontal positions.
  • Although it looked more like a regular airplane than most examples of this trope, the West German VJ-101 probably also counts, since it had the same tilting-jet VTOL as many of the above fictional examples. Unlike the X-22 and the Bell Model 65, the VJ-101 was intended to actually enter service as a fighter, but it turned out to be Awesome, but Impractical.
  • The hoverbike which is a manned quadcopter. Currently in development phase.
  • With the various proposals for "drone taxi" services, often using scaled-up versions of quadcopter ducted-fan drones such as this one, this trope is likely to become Truth in Television very soon.


Video Example(s):


Dune - Ornithopters

The Atreides' forces move to Arrakeen in their Ornithopters. Aircraft that fly by flapping its wings like a dragonfly, taking the place of helicopters in the far future.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / FutureCopter

Media sources: