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On June 13th, 2013, the AeroVelo team from the University of Toronto completed the requirements set 33 years ago by AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Challenge. Using only pedal power, their craft lifted off, achieved a height of 3.3m, and hovered for 64 seconds while drifting only 9.8m. This incredible success came after 75 test flights, two major crashes from altitude, and close competition with a team from the Univeristy of Maryland, who set multiple records of their own along the way.
The AeroVelo Atlas is the second largest helicopter ever built. It is a quadrotor design with 66 foot rotors and a diagonal dimension 154 feet, barely smaller than the Mil V-12. Which weighs literally 1000 times more. The Atlas is constructed of carbon fiber, balsa, polystyrene, polyester film, vectran line, kevlar, and a Cervelo bike frame. At 55kg, it weighs substantially less than 80kg pilot Todd Reichert, who supplied an average of 550 Watts over the one-minute flights.
The solution was not the result of one singular vision. In the modern way, it was created by carefully analyzing computer gradient sweeps of 30 different variables. This proved effective in revealing less obvious solutions. Particularly bold was the decision to build the optimum, enormous design, and worry later about finding a place big enough to fly it. Both AeroVelo and the University of Maryland team struggled to develop effective controls, especially during descent where the blades are more likely to stall. Maryland tried varying rotor RPM, while the Atlas leans the suspended bike to tilt a rotor.
Congratulations to the entire team for ushering in a brave new world with their partially Kickstarter-funded feat.
AeroVelo team wins elusive Sikorsky Prize for human-powered helicopter – Vertical