Sunday Skillz: Human-Powered Helicopter

Human-powered flight has been a dream for mankind as long as there have been minds capable of looking up and watching with envy as the birds prowled our skies.

I dare any of you dudes to tell me truly that you have never dreamed about flying, on your own, just the wind and your body. You can’t. It’s an almost universal (to humanity at least) dream of freedom.

Witness wingsuits, hang gliding and parachuting. Those, however, are all variations on slowing your fall so you don’t squash when you meet the ground. It’s not true human-powered flight.

This, however, is.

How awesome is that? Let’s let a story from Popular Mechanics do the talking for a bit.

A quixotic Kickstarter-funded project has won the Sikorsky Prize, one of the most elusive goals in aviation, by keeping a human powered helicopter aloft for more than a minute. Aerovelo, an aeronautical engineering startup founded by Canadians Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, announced this morning that the Federation d’Aviation Intenationale (FAI)—the governing body of international aeronautical prizes—has certified a flight that Reichert piloted on June 13 as having met the qualifications for the $250,000 prize. 

The rules of the American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Challenge, established in 1980, specify that the craft must fly for 60 seconds, must rise to an altitude of at least 3 meters (about 10 feet), and must remain within a horizontal area no bigger than 10 meters by 10 meters (33 feet by 33 feet). The actual flight, completed at an indoor soccer stadium near Toronto, lasted 64 seconds and reached a maximum altitude of 3.3 meters. 

This is just amazing, dudes. I mean, a bunch of crazy people had a really dumb idea, found enough people to fund them, and then went and proved the idea wasn’t so dumb at all.

The Aerovelo folks had the massive, indoor facility for five days to perform their testing. On the last of those five days, they’d used up almost all their time. They had, maybe, 10 minutes left before they had to vacate the space. And then — wam — they met the prize conditions.

All right, dudes! Let’s hear it for the Aerovelo people, brave dudes and dudettes with a crazy idea. So crazy — say it with me — it just might work. And it did.

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