Canadian built Human-Powered Helicopter wins elusive $250,000 Prize

Jul 11, 2013, 12:00 ET from Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

TORONTO, July 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- AeroVelo, a Toronto based engineering team has won the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Challenge and its $250,000 prize. On Thursday, June 13, 2013, Atlas, their human-powered helicopter, completed a record-breaking flight lasting 64 seconds and reaching a height of 3.3 metres.

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Conceived by Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, along with the AeroVelo team, Atlas spans an incredible 46.9 metres (154 feet) rotor tip to rotor tip, while weighing only 55kgs (122lbs). The record-breaking flight was piloted by Reichert, a cyclist and speed skater who has been working with high-performance coaches to develop the power and endurance necessary for a prize-winning flight.  According to Reichert "Lifting off and floating above the ground is an incredible feeling, but it's certainly no easy task. The sheer power required, combined with the high level of mental and physical control, has made this a worthy athletic challenge."

In addition to Reichert as Chief Aerodynamicist and pilot, and Robertson as Chief Structural Engineer, the team is made up of volunteers as well as engineering students who are part of an experiential learning program at AeroVelo. This unique program uses human-powered vehicles as a design, innovation and learning platform. "Engineering for a human-engine fosters creativity and ingenuity thus providing an eye-opening experience to our students, and inspiring youth and the general public. Team members will go out into industry and society knowing how to do more with less, ready to solve the formidable challenges facing our generation," said Reichert.

The $250,000 AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Challenge was established in 1980, and requires a human-powered helicopter to have a total flight time of more than 60 seconds, reach a height of over 3 metres during the flight, and stay within a 10 metre by 10 metre box. Since its inception a third of a century ago, dozens of international teams have taken on the challenge, yet the prize has remained elusive.

This is not the first time that Reichert and Robertson have achieved a significant aeronautical milestone; in 2010 they became the first team to successfully build and fly a human-powered ornithopter (flapping wing aircraft), named Snowbird. According to Robertson "Our experience with the Snowbird helped develop the innovative approach and techniques critical for attacking this challenge, and endowed us with the persistence required to overcome many setbacks large and small."

The project is funded by donors in both the academic and corporate communities, including significant contributions from the University of Toronto, Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Cervelo Cycles, CSR Inc, Kenneth Molson Foundation, the FAI, Bell Helicopter and Cassidy's Transfer & Storage Ltd.

Looking to the future, AeroVelo hopes to tackle the 2 remaining human-powered aircraft challenges, which have yet to be won; the Kremer Marathon Competition and the Kremer Sporting Aircraft Competition. In addition, they have their sights set on the World Human-Powered Speed Challenge, where streamlined bicycles, reaching speeds over 130 km/hr, compete for the title of world's fastest human.

About AeroVelo
AeroVelo is an elite design and innovation lab, focused on high-profile thought-provoking engineering projects. Their mission is to engage in projects that inspire creativity and challenge the norms of conventional design, doing more with less and leading the way to a healthy and sustainable future. As part of this mission, AeroVelo offers annual experiential learning programs to engineering students, providing them with the opportunity to participate in unique projects such as Atlas, to gain hands-on experience, challenge themselves and push engineering technology to its limits.

SOURCE Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.