Simanaitis Says

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FRENCHMAN LOUIS BREGUET was the great-great-grandson of famed horologist Abraham-Louis Breguet. By contrast, Louis Breguet was an aviation pioneer, yet very much ahead of his time. Indeed, one of his crafts would be familiar to today’s quadcopter enthusiasts.

Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits gleaned from Chronicle of Aviation, editor-in-chief Bill Gunston, JL International, 1992, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

Louis Charles Breguet, 1880–1955, French aircraft designer, builder, and aviation entrepreneur.

Louis’s grandfather Louis-Francois-Clement Breguet was a physicist (and watchmaker, naturally) who was known for his early work with telegraphy. In 1903, our Louis graduated from École Supérieure d’Électricité, France’s top electrical engineering school.

Proto Quadcopter, 1907. In September 1907, Breguet, his brother Jacques, and their mentor Charles Richet demonstrated their four-rotor Gyroplane to members of the French Academy of Science.

The Breguet Gyroplane. This and other images from Chronicle of Aviation.

The Gyroplane had a centrally mounted 30-hp Antoinette engine powering four rotors on extended girders, each rotor consisting of four biplane blades. The pilot operated the craft from a central location.

The Breguet-Richet Gyroplane. Image from Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris.

The Gyroplane’s 1907 performance was modest indeed. In history’s first display of vertical, powered, piloted flight, perhaps it rose 0.6 meters (around 2 ft.), the structure steadied by four men. See tomorrow’s Part 2, however, for a successful Gyroplane redux in 1935.

The Breguet Aircraft Company, 1911. Societe Anonyme des Ateliers d’Aviation was established in 1911. This same year, pilot Henri Brégi flew a Breguet 11 biplane with journalist René Lebaut as passenger on the first demonstration of flight in Morocco. They traveled some 185 miles, from Casablanca reaching Fez via Rabat and Meknès.

Brégi’s Breguet 11 is guarded in Meknès, Morocco.

The Aluminum Breguet 14, World War I. Wikipedia cites that the Breguet 14 single-engine day bomber was “perhaps one of the most widely used French warplanes of its time.” It was exceptional with an airframe almost entirely of aluminum, many aeroplane structures still being largely of wood.

A Breguet 14 at the U.S. Army Air Service Production Center No. 2, Romorantin Aerodrome, France, 1918.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, Breguet continues being an aviation visionary in other ways as well. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020


  1. Bob Storck
    May 27, 2020

    Breguet was prescient in his quad rotor layout.

    Throughout the years, many helo designers have made prototypes utilizing the benefits of the four rotor layout. These include Hiller, Fairchild, Curtiss-Wright and Piasecki with a version incorporating a blimp for logging work.

    However, the layout has reached a high point, as it’s a natural for all those drones buzzing about.

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