The rotary engine is an early type of internal combustion engine, usually designed with an odd number of cylinders per row in a radial configuration, in which the crankshaft remained stationary in operation, with the entire crankcase and its attached cylinders rotating around it as a unit. Its main application was in aviation, although it also saw use before its primary aviation role, in a few early motorcycles and automobiles.
This type of engine was widely used as an alternative to conventional inline engines (straight or V) during World War I and the years immediately preceding that conflict. It has been described as “a very efficient solution to the problems of power output, weight, and reliability”.
By the early 1920s, the inherent limitations of this type of engine had rendered it obsolete.