Human-powered Atlas helicopter

Date:19 April 2013 Tags:, , , ,

Canadians Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson launched their own human-powered helicopter team in 2012 to capture the elusive AHS Sikorsky Prize – the international battle for $250 000 (about R2,3 million), which will go to the world’s first minimally capable human-powered helicopter. Established in 1980 and long dormant, the prize has become within the past year the most hotly contested challenge in the field of human-powered aircraft.

The requirements for the Sikorsky Prize are relatively modest. To win, a human-powered rotary craft must rise clear of the ground for at least 60 seconds and achieve a height of 9,8 feet (about 3 m). The centre of the craft, meanwhile, has to remain within an area of 33 square feet (3,06 m²).

Atlas is Reichert’s entry for the Sikorsky Prize. He began sketching the Atlas helicopter in late 2011 and spent the winter drafting a detailed design. Last year, he used Kickstarter to raise R323 000 for the project. Later, student volunteers helped assemble the craft in an old barn.

What makes Atlas unique is that it has a mechanism that allows the pilot to steer the aircraft by changing the pitch of steerable winglets at the tip of each rotor blade. Other than that, the team is being rather cagey about the design of their human-powered rotorcraft.

Watch a flight test of the human-powered Atlas, which lasted roughly 30 seconds with Todd reaching an altitude of roughly 5 feet (about 1,5 m).

Right now, Reichert’s biggest obstacle isn’t physics. It’s the University of Maryland team, who are on the verge of taking the prize. Find out more about UMD’s craft, Gamera II

Read more about the contest and the teams in PM’s May 2013 issue – on sale 22 April.