Canadian Manufacturing

Canadian-designed human-powered helicopter wins Sikorsky prize [Video]

This is the first time in the 33-year history of the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition that anyone has actually managed to win it.



ALEXANDRIA, V.A.—Toronto-based engineering firm AeroVelo, Inc. has won the vaunted Sikorsky Prize by developing a functioning human-powered helicopter.

This is the first time in the 33-year history of the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition that anyone has actually won it.

A panel of vertical flight technical experts including the AHS International Human Powered Helicopter Competition Committee reviewed the design and flight testing of AeroVelo’s “Atlas” human powered helicopter, as well as data from its June 13, 2013 flight.

Based on that review, the committee has verified that the Atlas flight met all of the requirements to win the competition and its US$250,000 prize. AeroVelo’s Dr. Todd Reichert piloted and pedaled the Atlas on that flight, which was conducted inside The Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ont.

The requirements to win the AHS Sikorsky prize were for an aircraft using only human power to fly for at least 60 seconds, reach an altitude of at least 3 meters (9.8 feet) and remain hovering over a 10 by 10 meter (32.8 by 32.8 foot) area. The full competition regulations, as well as past news updates, videos and other information, are available on the AHS International website. www.vtol.org/hph.

“The AHS Sikorsky Prize challenged the technical community to harness teamwork, technical skills and cutting edge technologies to meet requirements that were on the ragged edge of feasibility,” said AHS International Executive Director Mike Hirschberg. “It took AeroVelo’s fresh ideas, daring engineering approach and relentless pursuit of innovation—coupled with more than three decades of advances in structures, composites, computer-aided design and
aeromechanical theory—to succeed in achieving what many in vertical flight considered impossible. We congratulate the Atlas team on its incredible success.”

The American Helicopter Society (AHS), as the Society was then known, established the competition in 1980, and named it for one of its most important founding members, Igor I.Sikorsky. AHS originally offered a US$10,000 prize, which was soon raised to US$25,000. In 2009, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. – which Igor I. Sikorsky founded in 1923 – increased the prize to US$250,000 to better spur vertical flight innovation.

The international competition has attracted teams from Canada (including schools in Montreal and Vancouver), Japan, the U.S., and around the world.

AeroVelo’s Atlas is larger than any operational helicopter ever constructed, based on its overall width of 58 meters (190 feet), though it weighs only 52 kilograms (115 pounds). It has four 20.4 meter (67 foot) diameter rotors that are powered by the pilot pedaling a Cervelo carbon-fiber bicycle.

The Atlas project was begun in January 2012 and made its first flight in August 2012. Watch this incredible video of the award-winning flight:

AeroVelo is one of three teams recently flying as part of the AHS competition. The others are the University of Maryland in College Park with its Gamera II helicopter and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. with its Upturn II aircraft.

The AHS announced the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition will soon be followed by another grand challenge, the details of which are currently being refined.

AHS International, based in Alexandria, V.A., is the world’s premier professional vertical flight technical society. The Society provides global leadership for scientific, technical, educational and legislative initiatives that advance the state of the art of vertical flight.

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