Human-powered helicopter finally takes Sikorsky Prize

For the first time since its introduction in 1980, the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize for a human-powered helicopter flight has actually been awarded.


Since 1980, the American Helicopter Society has offered the Sikorsky Prize: a $250,000 reward for a functional, human-powered helicopter.

To win the prize, the helicopter must remain airborne for 60 seconds, with an altitude of 3 meters (a little less than 10 feet) to be reached at some point during those 60 seconds. It must also remain within a horizontal area no larger than 10×10 meters.

Last year, it looked like the University of Maryland’s Gamera II was gearing up to take the prize, but two Canadians have scooped it up from right under Gamera II’s nose.

Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert of the University of Toronto’s Vehicle Design Team and AeroVelo hit up Kickstarter last year to fund a vehicle called the Atlas. Consisting of four rotors connected by a massive frame, the helicopter is powered by a modified bicycle slung from the middle.

Robertson and Reichert had hired a stadium for five days of test flights. The successful flight didn’t occur until the very last day. Reichert, piloting the Atlas, remained airborne for 64.11 seconds and reached a top height of 3.33 meters within a 9.8-meter square.

“In 18 months, this passionate team went from preliminary design to achieving what many considered impossible; taking down one of the most daunting aviation feats of the past century,” the team said on its Web page.



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