Physical and technical potential of shape memory single crystals for applications in rotary actuators was experimentally studied. Single-crystalline Cu-Al-Ni cylindrical rods for tests and actuator applications were grown from melt by Stepanov method. The crystals were tested by tension under conditions simulating their work in the proposed design of a rotary actuator. Actuator performance parameters such as rotation angle, torque and useful work were estimated basing on experimental results. Actuators employing shape memory effect outperform conventional electric motors and actuators in terms of specific work output.