A human-powered helicopter (HPH) wins the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky
AeroVelo, a Toronto-based engineering team, has won the AHS lgor
l. Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter (HPH) Challenge and its
On Thursday, June 13, 2013, Atlas, their HPH, completed a
record-breaking flight lasting 64 seconds and reaching a height
of 3.3 meters. Until now, no human-powered helicopter had ever
been able to remain in the air for more than 19 seconds.
And Bell Helicopter was a proud sponsor of this record-breaking
challenge. “Bell Helicopter supported us at a critical time
during our testing and development of Atlas, enabling our team
to carry forward” says Reichert, one of the two team members.
Building a helicopter and keeping it in the air powered by
nothing but human muscle is one of the biggest challenges
aviation faces. The requirements to win the AHS Sikorsky prize
were for an aircraft using only human power to fly for at least
60 seconds, reach an altitude of at least 3 meters (9.8 feet)
and remain hovering over a 10 by 10 meter (32.8 by 32.8 foot)
Since its inception a third of a century ago, dozens of
international teams have taken on the challenge, yet the prize
had remained elusive. Since the Sikorsky Prize began in 1988,
only three craft had ever managed to get off the ground at all.
In Robertson’s words, “to get an HPH off the ground at all is an
enormous challenge, and bringing the three elements of the prize
together in one incredible flight seemed all but impossible.”
A Canadian-built HPH
Designed by Canadians Todd Reichert (Chief Aerodynamicist) and
Cameron Robertson (Chief Structural Engineer), along with the
AeroVelo team, Atlas is 46.9 meters (154 feet) from rotor tip to
rotor tip and weighs only 55 kg (122lbs). The record-breaking
flight was piloted by Reichert, a cyclist and speed skater, who
had been working with high-performance coaches to develop the
power and endurance necessary for a prize-winning flight.
According to Reichert: “Lifting off and floating above the
ground is an incredible feeling, but it's certainly
no easy task. The sheer power required, combined with the high
level of mental and physical control, has made this a worthy
What made the difference in AeroVelo succeeding where others had
failed? Robertson: “The passionate and driven team, our
innovative and creative engineering approach, and the
cutting-edge fabrication and multi-disciplinary optimization
approaches we applied were the key elements at play. We hope
that this achievement can inspire everyone to challenge the
impossible, and to learn to do more with less.”
Bell Helicopter, proud to support such initiatives
The project was funded by donors in the public, academic, and
corporate communities, including significant contributions from,
University of Toronto, Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada and,
of course, Bell Helicopter Textron.
Last July 11, Siarhei Kudnizau, Associate Technical Specialist,
BHTCL, and Andrew Sayer, Manager, Commercial Programs, BHTCL and
AHS International VP for the Americas, had the honor of
attending the award presentation ceremony, along with many other
aviation notables, including Sergei Sikorsky, the son of Igor.
"This is a truly historic achievement that many thought
impossible and will serve as a great inspiration to young
engineers and scientists" said Andrew. "I am very much looking
forward to seeing what the next challenge will be!"
As BHTCL employees, we should all be proud of what this Canadian
team has accomplished and the part that BHTCL played to make
this historic event possible.
[Sources: Press Communiqués from AeroVelo and the AHS; Andrew
Sayer, AHS VP International for the Americas, and Manager,
Commercial Programs, BHTCL; Cameron Robert, Chief Structural
Engineer, AeroVelo; and Siarhei Kudzinau, Associate Technical
Watch a video of this historic flight
The full competition regulations, as well as past news updates
and other information are available on the AHS International
website (www.vtol.org/hph). Other videos of the prize-winning
flight are available on Aerovelo website.