For those captivated by the possibilities of human-powered transportation, the goal is glamorous: flying a human-powered helicopter for at least 60 seconds, reaching a height of three metres at least once during the flight. The reward itself, offered by the American Helicopter Society, has broader appeal: the highly-competitive $250,000 Igor I. Sikorsky Prize, named for the pioneering Russian-American aviator. (via Human-powered helicopter: Toronto engineers aiming to win elusive Sikorsky flight prize - thestar.com)
- If the helicopter’s specifications are pinpoint accurate, optimizations perfect and the team’s pride of purpose operates at full throttle — indeed if all goes according to plan and they soar to three metres — they might just accomplish a feat to which no one has come close in the Sikorsky Prize’s 32-year history.
- But Toronto-based AeroVelo, the engineering collective behind the project, dubbed Atlas, faces stiff competition. TheUniversity of Maryland’s Gamera IIhelicopter set a U.S. flight record of 49.9 seconds last June and is also expected to test for the prize later this month.
- Until this year, no team had got their human-powered helicopter off the ground since 1994. With AeroVelo ready to test this week, never before have two teams been in this tight a competition for the elusive prize.
- “We would definitely like to be first,” said Atlas’ 25-year-old chief structural engineer, Cameron Robertson. “The fact that there has been this competition is really a driver. We’ve been keeping a closer eye on (Maryland). We can’t afford mistakes.”
- AeroVelo will not reveal design specs or allow photographs of the assembled helicopter.
- Maryland, which publishes pictures, video and design features online, takes a softer stance. “If (AeroVelo is) smart and they can pick up what we’ve done, then they deserve to be number one; I don’t think we ever thought about competition,” said Inderjit Chopra, director of the university’s Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center.
The bicycle that might.. :)