A human-powered helicopter (HPH) wins the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Prize!


AeroVelo, a Toronto-based engineering team, has won the AHS lgor l. Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter (HPH) Challenge and its $250,000 prize.

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.

Some background

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) area.

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 athletic challenge.”

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 Specialist, BHTCL]

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.








This site was last updated 07/22/13