Sikorsky Prize: AeroVelo Wins $250K For First Human-Powered Helicopter

The Sikorsky Prize was officially awarded to AeroVelo on Thursday after a month-long independent analysis of a June 13 test flight of a human-powered helicopter. Click the button up top to see the amazing test flight of the helicopter dubbed “Atlas” for yourself.

The Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition was first announced in 1980 with a prize of $250,000 that has gone unclaimed for 33 years. The challenge was to design and build a working human-powered helicopter that could stay aloft in a hover for at least one minute.

According to AeroVelo’s statement and video, the amazing flight lasted 64.11 seconds, which they believed has also set a record for a human-powered hover. It reached a peak 3.3 meters and drifted less than 10 meters out of the hover.

On Thursday, The American Helicopter Society agreed. The AHS Human-Powered Helicopter Committee announced that the AeroVelo June 13 flight had met all the conditions to qualify for receiving the $250,000 Sikorsky prize.

Although the prize has been dangling out there for over three decades, the University of Toronto team told CTV News that AeroVelo set out to tackle the human-powered helicopter project less than two years ago. The helicopter itself was designed and built in less than four months. The flight testing took nine months.

One of the lead engineers, Todd Reichert, told CTV:

“This is a monumental challenge, this prize. This was a challenge that was set up 33 years ago and until last year really nobody had come close…We’d make small steps forward and then some steps back. There have been a lot of crashes, a lot of broken rotors and there have been two full crashes from altitude, from three metres up, where we destroyed much of the helicopter…”

Their persistence has paid off in winning the Sikorsky Prize — an aviation challenge that went unmet for 33 years until AeroVelo stepped up to the plate.

[still photo by AeroVelo]