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  • 12 July 2013, 15:13

Man-Powered Helicopter Wins Sikorsky Prize

An international competition to fly a human-powered helicopter has been won for the first time since it was established 33 years ago.

The $250,000 (165,000) Sikorsky prize has been given to AeroVelo, a Canadian team of University of Toronto alumni, students and volunteers.

Their Atlas flying contraption met all the criteria necessary to become the first winner of the coveted gong since the award was created in 1980 by the American Helicopter Society (AHS).

In order to be successful the human-powered helicopter had to achieve a one-minute hover time, a momentary altitude of three metres and be controlled within a constrained box - all in the same flight.

The winning flight was piloted and pedalled by AeroVelo's Dr Todd Reichert inside the Soccer Centre in Vaughan, Ontario.

A post on the team's website said it was an "exciting milestone in aviation history".

"This incredible flight was 64.11 seconds in duration, reached a 3.3m peak altitude, and drifted a maximum of 9.8m.

" ? In 18 months this passionate team went from preliminary design to achieving what many considered impossible, taking down one of the most daunting aviation feats of the past century," the posting said.

The Atlas is larger than any operational helicopter ever constructed with a width of 58m (190ft), although it weighs only 52kgs (115lbs). It has four 20.4m (67ft) diameter rotors that are powered by the pilot pedalling a carbon-fibre bicycle.

In congratulating the team, AHS International executive director Mike Hirschberg said: "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."

The competition was named after one of AHS's founding members Igor I Sikorsky and has attracted entrants from around the world over the years.

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