A Canadian built human-powered helicopter becomes the first machine to ever win the 33-year old Sikorsky engineering prize.
33 years ago, the American Helicopter Society launched its Igor Sikorsky engineering prize for human-powered helicopters. The prize, which comes with a check for $250,000 has never been won until this week, when a team from the University of Toronto claimed it with their invention.
To win the prize, your challenge is to build a flying machine that can get 3 meters off the ground, manage sustained flight for 30 seconds using human muscle-power alone, and stay within a 10 by 10 meter area. “It was long seen as impossible to win this,” said Mike Hirschberg, the international executive director of the AHS.
The winning machine, called Atlas, was designed by a team of 20 students and young professionals. The machine’s design makes it extremely light, weighing only 55 kg, but having a whopping span of 49.4 m (only 10 m short of the wingspan on a Boeing 747). “This is not about creating a practical machine,” said Hirschberg, “this is to set a challenge for young engineers, to harness their creativity and technical skills and to experience working as a team against really, extremely challenging requirements.”
The test flight which confirmed the prize for the team
The Atlas was piloted by team leader Todd Reichert, 31, an aerodynamics expert. Kudos to him, because the craft requires a fairly strong pedaler who can sustain about one horsepower for the entire length of time. Of course, he had plenty of motivation; the prize is a pretty big paycheck. “We are not rich but it will enable us and the students with us to continue doing what we love doing,”