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Human-Powered Helicopter Flies Into Aviation History

posted 11 Jul 2013, 06:50 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Jul 2013, 06:50 ]

A team from Toronto has won the long-coveted Sikorsky prize by using human power alone to fly an aircraft. The team, called AreroVelo Inc., achieved the feat last month, winning a $250,000 prize that has been on offer for 33 years, but never before awarded.

VAUGHANONTARIOCANADA (JUNE 13, 2013) (MARTIN TURNER, VISIBILIZE) -  Led by pilot and chief engineer Todd Reichert, the Toronto-based AeroVelo team managed to keep their "Atlas" human-powered helicopter aloft for approximately 64 seconds, to win the American Helicopter Society (AHS) Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition, a feat never achieved before.

The AHS first issued the human-powered flight challenge in 1980, with an initial prize of $10,000. Since then, many teams have attempted to meet the objective of creating a helicopter that could rise three metres and hover over a 10-metre-by-10-metre box for one minute using only human-generated power.

More than 20 human-powered helicopters have been designed and built since the competition began, though only a handful have got off the ground.

The AeroVelo team comprises Reichert, his co-chief engineer Cameron Robertsonand students from the University of Toronto. They beat the 33 year-old challenge on June 13 inside an indoor soccer centre in Vaughan, near Toronto, flying Atlas above three metres (9.8 feet) and hovering for approximately 64 seconds. Officials from the AHS International verified the flight data and concluded it meets all of the criteria necessary to win the competition.

The Sikorsky Prize was created to "encourage creative thinkers to prove that what is considered impossible is often proven to be possible." a spokesman said.

AeroVelo's Atlas vehicle is the largest human-powered helicopter to have flown, and the first in Canada, with each of its four rotors measuring nearly 70 feet. The airframe is built of light carbon tube and polymer weighing only 52 kg (115 lb), with a highly modified bicycle frame pedaled by the pilot. It first flew in August 2012.

As Atlas touched down after its historic flight the team shouted with jubilation. They were confident they'd won, but had to wait a month before their success could be confirmed with the prize award on Thursday (July 11).