After 33 Years, Team Wins Human-Powered Flight Contest

The winners of the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition will take home $250,000 and some serious bragging rights.
Click here to see this amazing image even larger. Ollie Bland

Even though scientists have dreamed of human-powered flight since the days of Da Vinci, it’s really, really hard to pull off. Case in point: In 1980, the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition offered $250,000 to the first team to build a person-powered craft that can hover above 3 meters (or 9.8 feet) for longer than a minute. That prize went unclaimed for 33 years, until a team won it today.

The team of Canadians flying for AeroVelo launched their Atlas helicopter on June 13, and the flight–64 seconds, up to 3.3 meters–was just certified by the Sikorsky Prize judges. (We previously wrote about team member Todd Reichert’s human-powered ornithopter project, too.) Here’s a look at the flight:

Despite the prize going unclaimed for so long, the competition came down to the wire. The Atlas team was going up against two other aircraft, and one of them, the Gamera II, met the time requirement and came pretty close to the height requirement last year.

But lest you think this is the end of the three-decade-plus story, the American Helicopter Society, which oversees the prize, has announced “another grand challenge” coming soon.