Toronto Engineers Create World’s First Human-Powered Helicopter; Team Wins the $250000 Sikorsky Prize (VIDEO)


University of Toronto engineers emerged winners of the Igor I Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition Thursday for building the world's first human powered helicopter. Apart from the prestigious award, the 'AeroVelo' team, led by Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, also received $250,000 in prize money.

The winning flying machine successfully hovered in the air for at least 60 seconds, reached at least 3 meters in height, and stayed within a 10 by 10 meter area, which were the requirements for winning the prize.

For nearly three decades, none of the engineers could meet all the criteria to secure the long-coveted international prize. However, this year, the Canadian team, comprising of University of Toronto alumni, students and volunteers, achieved this remarkable feat. The 31-year-old Reichert piloted the machine to make the record-breaking flight on 13 June.

"This isn't something that you're going to commute to work in any time soon, but it's an exercise in really pushing the limits on what's physically possible, and what you can do with lightweight materials and really creative design," Reichert said. "Winning this competition really is a catalyst to keep doing the things we love. Our goal is to take on projects that really inspire people to follow big dreams."

'Atlas,' features a set of 20-meter rotors at each corner of a square frame 50 meters, and a bicycle at the center of the square. The mere mention of these materials may sounds heavy in one's mind. Although it is not!

The team used light weight materials such as carbon fiber and as a result, the whole machine despite its huge size, weighs only 55 kg and measures nearly 47 meters across.

"As you spin your legs, you're spinning the rotors," Reichert said. "It's very much an exercise in mental and physical control, at the same time as an all-out physical effort. It's like you're biking along the street and someone came and just picked up your bike, and now you're floating. At the same time you don't really have the time to appreciate that, because of everything that's going on. Upon landing is when it all sinks in."

The fragile machine 'Atlas' bagged the top prize by beating 'Gamera II' created by engineers from the University of Maryland in College Park and 'Upturn II' helicopter made by California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

The AeroVelo team started working on Atlas since January 2012 and flight testing began in August. The team initially encountered two big crashes that destroyed much of their craft each time.

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