|Aerial view taken soon after the first flight of AeroVelo's Atlas human-powered helicopter|
A human-powered helicopter (HPH) is a helicopter powered solely by one or more persons carried on board. As in other human-powered aircraft, the power is usually generated by pedalling. It remains a considerable engineering challenge to obtain both the power-to-weight ratio and rotor efficiency required to sustain a helicopter in flight.
On 13 June 2013, the AeroVelo Atlas was the first to complete a flight that lasted 64 seconds and reached an altitude of 3.3 metres, thus winning the American Helicopter Society (AHS) International's Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition.
The AHS Sikorsky Prize
The American Helicopter Society (AHS) International's Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition was a competition to achieve the first human-powered helicopter flight to reach an altitude of 3 m (10 ft) during a flight lasting at least 60 seconds, while remaining within a 10 m (32.8 ft) x 10 m (32.8 ft) square, and complying with other competition requirements. Founded in 1980, the prize was originally US$10,000, but was raised to $250,000 in 2009. After the increase, two teams – AeroVelo from Canada and Team Gamera from Maryland – raced to win the competition. It was won by the AeroVelo Atlas for a flight that took place on 13 June 2013.
In a ceremony on 11 July 2013, held at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ontario, the prize of $250,000 was presented. In announcing the award, the executive director of AHS International stated, "We at AHS International congratulate the AeroVelo team on your incredible accomplishment. Like the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Igor Sikorsky before you, you have set an aviation milestone that should be forever remembered as a truly remarkable feat of innovative engineering excellence."
Da Vinci III
The world record for human-powered helicopters was held by a craft named Yuri I, built by a team from the Nihon Aero Student Group. In 1994, it achieved a height of 20 cm for 19.46 seconds unassisted, and unofficially reached 70 cm during a flight lasting 24 seconds. In Japanese, the name Yuri means "lily", a reference to the shape of the machine.
The world record for a flight of 65.1 seconds was, until September, 2013, held by a team of researchers at University of Maryland who developed the Gamera II. It was set on 28 August 2012, and on the same day they achieved an altitude of 8 ft (2.4 m) above ground level. That record was exceeded, and a new record of 87 seconds aloft established by the AeroVelo Atlas, with Trefor Evans piloting.
On 11 May 2011, a human powered helicopter was first flown by a female. Pilot Judy Wexler became airborne a few inches above the ground for about 4 seconds in an earlier model of the craft, the Gamera I.
On 24 June 2012, the NTS Works Upturn human-powered helicopter also flew successfully for 10 seconds, climbing to about 2 ft (0.6 m). In October 2012, NTS Works donated the Upturn to California Polytechnic University of San Luis Obispo.
AeroVelo is an aeronautical engineering start-up founded by University of Toronto graduates Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson. The project received its initial funding via Kickstarter. Work on the group's Atlas helicopter began in January 2012. Flight tests began in August. On 28 August 2012, Atlas became the fifth human-powered helicopter to fly. The group experienced two major crashes over the subsequent months as they refined their design.
The Atlas, a quad-rotor design. The Atlas has a 50x50 meter square frame with a bicycle at the center to provide the power to four 20 metres (66 ft) slow-moving rotors at each corner of the frame. Overall, the helicopter is 58 metres (190 ft) wide. Despite its large size, the entire helicopter weighs just 55 kilograms (121 lb). Unlike the Gamera design, power is achieved solely from leg power; it is flown by one person.
On 13 June 2013, the Atlas completed a flight that fulfilled the requirements of the Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Challenge. The flight was powered by Reichert at Soccer Centre, an indoor soccer stadium (in Vaughan near Toronto), lasted 64 seconds and reached a maximum altitude of 3.3 meters. The prize-winning flight came on the last day of five days of testing, and just minutes before the group was scheduled to vacate the premises. After a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale panel verified the feat, the $250,000 prize was awarded on 11 July 2013. Presenting the prize, American Helicopter Society director Mike Hirschberg remarked "Several studies 'proved' that [the challenge] was in fact scientifically impossible ... Well, it took a third of a century to prove those skeptics wrong." Reichert said the most difficult part of the flight was not the ascent, but rather controlling the descent without crashing. He said the prize money was nice, but the real satisfaction came from the achievement itself. Subsequent to that prize-winning flight, the Atlas flew many more times, including record setting flights in September, 2013 for;
- Longest hover flight by a woman : Alexis Reichert, 55 seconds - Longest hover flight by a man : Trefor Evans, 87 seconds - Youngest HPH flight : Davey ___, age 15, __ seconds - Oldest HPH flight : Marc Poland, age 55, 65 seconds
- "Human Powered Helicopter". AHS International. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
- Jason Paur (12 July 2013). "Canadian Team Claims $250,000 Prize for Human-Powered Helicopter". Wired. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
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- "AHS Remarks on Presenting the Prize" (Press release). 11 July 2013.
- "Project: Da Vinci III". humanpoweredhelicopters.org. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
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- "FAI Record ID #16616". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- Zap, Claudine. "Up in the air with a human-powered helicopter". Yahoo!.
- "Human-Powered Helicopter Flies". Retrieved 12 May 2011.
- "FAI Record ID #16230". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- AHS International article about Upturn
- "Upturn has a new home". NTS Works. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
- Jeff Wise (11 July 2013). "Finally! A Human-Powered Helicopter Wins the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
- Alok Jha (12 July 2013). "Helicopter powered by man on bicycle wins $250,000 prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
- "Atlas Flight Testing Summary 3 Oct. 2012". AeroVelo. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
- "Vertiflite, "Human Powered Helicopters Rise Higher"". AHS International. November-December, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
- AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition
- www.HumanPoweredHelicopters.org Information on the technology, history and people involved in human-powered helicopters
- Information on different drive trains for human powered helicopters