A helicopter is an aircraft that is lifted and propelled by one or more horizontal rotors, each rotor consisting of two or more rotor blades. Helicopters are classified as rotorcraft or rotary-wing aircraft to distinguish them from fixed-wing aircraft because the helicopter achieves lift with the rotor blades which rotate around a mast. The word 'helicopter' is adapted from the French hélicoptère, coined by Gustave de Ponton d'Amecourt in 1861, which originates from the Greek helix/helik- (????-) = "spiral" or "turning" and pteron (??????) = "wing".[1][2]

The primary advantage of a helicopter is from the rotor which provides lift without the aircraft needing to move forward, allowing the helicopter take off and land vertically without a runway. For this reason, helicopters are often used in congested or isolated areas where fixed-wing aircraft cannot take off or land. The lift from the rotor also allows the helicopter to hover in one area and more efficiently than other forms of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, allowing it to accomplish tasks that fixed-wing aircraft cannot perform.

Although helicopters were developed and built during the first half-century of flight, some even reaching limited production, it was not until 1942 that a helicopter designed by Igor Sikorsky reached full-scale production,[3] with 131 aircraft built.[4] Even though most previous designs used more than one main rotor, it was the single main rotor with antitorque tail rotor configuration of this design that would come to be recognized worldwide as the helicopter.

A helicopter used to carry loads connected to long cables or slings is called an aerial crane. Aerial cranes are used to place heavy equipment, like radio transmission towers and large air conditioning units, on the tops of tall buildings, or when an item must be raised up in a remote area, such as a radio tower raised on the top of a hill or mountain. Helicopters are used as aerial cranes in the logging industry to lift trees out of terrain where vehicles cannot travel and where environmental concerns prohibit the building of roads.[26] These operations are referred to as longline because of the long, single sling line used to carry the load.[27]

Helitack is the use of helicopters to combat wildland fires.[28] The helicopters are used for aerial firefighting (or water bombing) and may be fitted with tanks or carry helibuckets. Helibuckets, such as the Bambi bucket, are usually filled by submerging the bucket into lakes, rivers, reservoirs, or portable tanks. Tanks fitted onto helicopters are filled from a hose while the helicopter is on the ground or water is siphoned from lakes or reservoirs through a hanging snorkel as the helicopter hovers over the water source. Helitack helicopters are also used to deliver firefighters, who rappel down to inaccessible areas, and to resupply firefighters. Common firefighting helicopters include variants of the Bell 205 and the Erickson S-64 Aircrane helitanker.