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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Human-powered helicopter finally takes US$250,000 Sikorsky Prize

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

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

Since 1980, the American Helicopter Society (AHS) has offered the Sikorsky Prize: a US$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 metres to be reached at some point during those 60 seconds. It must also remain within a horizontal area no larger than 10x10 metres.

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 metres within a 9.8-metre 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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AnthonyB posted a comment   

Prize should be forfeited. They accomplished nothing, as the craft would have blown apart in the open wind and never "flown", which is why they did it in a stadium.


AdamT8 posted a comment   

I don't see how the pedalling is transferred into work either... but it's still pretty impressive. Humans are awesome, sometimes.

Anyone know the song?


ozoneocean posted a comment   

The video isn't very good, it doesn't really show how the mechanism drives the rotors very well at all.
The flying looks impressive, but something more technical and less very obviously flashy would be a better idea for a subject like this. And not even the original article describes how much energy he's transferring to each rotor, the efficiency of the mechanism, the type of material he's used, and how him pedalling the back half of a normal bike translates into the movement of those strings that drive the rotors.


DavidC9 posted a reply   

Well I mean would they really want to give out the design for those things so easily?

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