After 33 years, the team at AeroVelo has achieved human powered flight for 60 seconds while broke the 3 meter height barrier, taking home $250,000 and some serious bragging rights. From AHS:

For the first time in a third of century, a team has claimed the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize. AHS International and Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. today awarded the $250,000 prize to AeroVelo, Inc.

The Toronto, Canada-based company won the prize with a June 13, 2013 flight in which its pilot pedaled the four-rotor Atlas helicopter to an altitude of more than 3 meters (9.8 feet) and kept it aloft for more than 60 seconds while remaining within 10 meters (32.8 feet) of the takeoff point. The altitude, duration and controllability were key requirements of the AHS Sikorsky Prize, which AHS established in 1980. Sikorsky Aircraft provided the prize money.

“It took AeroVelo’s fresh ideas, daring engineering approach and relentless pursuit of innovation — coupled with more than three decades of advances in structures, composites, computer-aided design and aeromechanical theory — to succeed in achieving what many in vertical flight considered impossible,” AHS International Executive Director Mike Hirschberg said during the award ceremony at The Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ontario, where the winning flight took place.

Hover past the break for photos and more…

AeroVelo wins Sikorsky Prize with Atlas human bicycle powered helicopter

AeroVelo’s Todd Reichert (pilot) and Cameron Robertson.

AeroVelo wins Sikorsky Prize with Atlas human bicycle powered helicopter

AeroVelo’s based in Toronto, Canada, so only fitting they chose a Canadian (in spirit, anyway) bike brand: Cervelo. Check the massive

AeroVelo wins Sikorsky Prize with Atlas human bicycle powered helicopter

AHS’s overview says the Atlas is the largest operational helicopter ever constructed. It measures 58 meters (190 feet) but weighs only 52 kilograms (115 pounds). Four 20.4 meter (67 foot) diameter rotors provide the lift.

AeroVelo wins Sikorsky Prize with Atlas human bicycle powered helicopter

The Atlas project was begun in January 2012 and made its first flight in August 2012. AHS says the conclusion of this contest is only the beginning of human powered flight; expect another “grand contest” to be announced soon.

All photos from AHS International. Check their website for the complete story.


  1. Seems like you could make the spinning wheel a lot larger to act like a flywheel? The rotational weight of a very large spinning wheel would require less wattage to keep spinning no?

  2. Well Will, it’s complex:

    1. The ground effect which is important for such a construction needs wings, which are double the length of the hight which are desired. So 3m height needs a +6m wing.

    2. Lower speed of wings will cause lesser turbulences and so you the efficiency of the wings is much better.

    3. A Helicopter is flying because of the impulse of the air which is pushed downwards. Impulse calculated v*m (speed of air * mass of air). But the air needs to be pushed downwards and this needs energy which is calculated with v²*m. So it’s better to push a higher mass of air down with low speed compared to a smaller rotor which pushes less mass much faster.

    +some other effects.

    At all, this guys did a very god job!

  3. It would be cool if they had a balloon that you could pack like a parachute, then fill from a compressed helium tank when it’s time to deploy. That way, when you get air on your bike, you don’t have to come down for a landing, and with the money saved from never buying another lift ticket, it would pay for itself in no time. I will offer a one hundred fifty dollar prize to the first man or woman to pull it off. Seriously. That money could buy you a lot of helium, so let’s get crackin!

  4. @Will – the energy output is the same regardless. A heavy flywheel directly attached to the system will smooth out any wattage variations in the rider’s stroke, but the energy in always equals the energy out (including whatever is lost to friction). So the power required to get that heavy flywheel spinning will keep it spinning longer, but for a sustained effort it just means you accelerate slower and decelerate slower (also smoothing out any peaks/valleys, as mentioned above).

    Since you also have to LIFT that flywheel, you come out behind – because you need to expend even more energy to keep that extra weight airborne (gravity is a bitch).

    Hence, as light as possible for everything that isn’t a critical flight surface. I’m surprised the guy was wearing a jersey to be honest!

    What WOULD work, although probably against the rules, would be an energy storage system that fills BEFORE it leaves the ground – for example, a flywheel with a clutch, or tensioning a torsional spring. This would allow you to input extra energy before flight begins. While the total energy input for the time of flight would need to be the same, this would give more time to input that energy – requiring a lower output from the rider for a longer period of time. Likely an easier feat than kicking out ridiculous power for a minute!

What do you think?