We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

A Leg Up on Human-Powered Flight

After 33 years, the Sikorsky prize for a human-powered helicopter is finally claimed.

By Valerie Ross
Jan 22, 2014 8:00 PMNov 14, 2019 9:57 PM
The AeroVelo team gathers during the winning flight attempt last summer in an indoor soccer stadium near Toronto. | Martin Turner, Visibilize.com


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

This buglike contraption won the Igor I. Sikorksy prize as the first human-powered helicopter to hover at least 9.8 feet (3 meters) off the ground for a minute or longer. The $250,000 prize went unclaimed for 33 years as craft after craft failed liftoff or crashed. 

But Toronto-based AeroVelo’s four-rotor, 115-pound bicycle-powered vessel, dubbed Atlas, stayed aloft for 64.1 seconds thanks to a design by aeronautical engineers and computer modeling that fine-tuned the blueprints.

AeroVelo co-founder Todd Reichert (an aerodynamic engineer and competitive speed skater) powers Atlas during its prize-winning flight over an indoor soccer field.
This modified, extremely light Cervelo R5 racing bike frame lies at the center of the action. | Martin Turner, Visibilize.com
The winning design, drawn by Todd Reichert, shows the basic scheme of the human-powered Atlas. The pilot sits in the middle, surrounded by four rotors. | Todd Reichert

[This article originally appeared in print as "A Leg Up on Human-Powered Flight."] 

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.