After going more than 30 years unclaimed, the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize for human-powered flight has a winner. Canadian startup company AeroVelo successfully kept their pedal-powered helicopter, Atlas, aloft for the 60 seconds required for the prize title.
Competition rules also state that the helicopter must rise to an altitude of at least 3 meters (about 10 feet), and must remain within a horizontal area no bigger than 10 meters (33 feet) square.
The Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition was initiated in 1980 by the American Helicopter Society (AHS). Various teams have attempted to win the prize since then, all unsuccessfully. Students at the University of Maryland were close last year, with a craft called Gamera. That copter flew for 50 seconds. But Atlas’s flight last month sets a world record of 64.11 seconds aloft.
The flight was piloted by AeroVelo co-founder Todd Reichert on June 13. However it was only announced yesterday that the attempt had been verified by the Federation d’Aviation Intenationale (FAI), the governing body of international aeronautical prizes.
Reichert and his fellow team leader Cameron Robertson have
been working to design a human-powered flying machine for six years. Last summer they raised over $34,000 via a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of winning the Sikorsky Prize. That funded an early stage of development of Atlas.
The final design consists of a square frame that measures 160 feet on each side. Rotors with 65-foot-long blades are affixed to each corner of the frame. A bicycle frame sits at the center of the square, from which a cyclist powers the copter. Because the contraption uses lightweight materials, including carbon fiber, the whole structure weighs less than the rider on the bike.
Watch the prize-winning flight in the video below.