Visions of human flight could soon soar beyond Leonardo da Vinci's sketches into reality. A crowd-funded project looks to make the first human-powered helicopter capable of winning a $250,000 prize and setting a new world record.
The "Atlas" helicopter would use four spinning rotors for stability and to make life easier for the person powering the aircraft. The design comes from the AeroVelo team of engineers and students that previously flew the world's first human-powered flapping wing aircraft in 2010.
"Successful human-powered flight requires doing much more, with much less; and this is where our helicopter is unique," according to AeroVelo's project description.
The human-powered helicopter must hover for at least one minute and reach a height of almost 10 feet (3 meters) to claim the $250,000 prize offered by helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft. That hefty prize has gone unclaimed since it debuted more than three decades ago in 1980.
AeroVelo plans to build the helicopter out of carbon-fiber tubes to ensure a strong but light structure for the aircraft. It has a special in-house software program that is able to balance the tradeoffs of hundreds of possible designs — hopefully leading to a human-powered helicopter worthy of Leonardo da Vinci's wildest fantasies.
The team has attracted more than $6,000 in pledges so far on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, but won't receive any money unless it hits the goal of raising $30,000 from online donors. The donations will go toward the Atlas project's overall budget of $170,000.
If it can raise enough funding, AeroVelo plans to have Atlas completed and ready for testing by early July. That could allow it to win the Sikorsky Prize by September.