Louis Breguet, heir to the famous watchmaking dynasty, was convinced that vertical flight was the best way of solving the problem of bodies heavier than air. In the family factory at Douai, aided by his friend Professor Richet, he built a machine with four rotors 8 metres in diameter driven by a 40-horsepower Antoinette engine. The 540-kilogram prototype could only be manoeuvred vertically and had to be maintained in position by hand from the ground. On 24 August 1907 it took off with a man on board. More trials confirmed its assisted lift to a height of 1.5 metres and the following year a second gyroplane enabled Breguet to register an initial patent for the cyclic angle of the propeller blades. The engineer then turned his attention to aviation. In 1935, with René Dorand, he finally built the first true helicopter, the ‘Laboratory gyroplane’, which won several altitude and speed records.