Teams Regroup in Race for AHS Sikorsky Prize

The 33-year-old AHS Sikorsky Prize for human-powered helicopter flight has survived unclaimed, for a few more weeks at least.

Canada's AeroVelo team, with the Atlas, failed in an attempt on the prize on Friday, March 15, when the quadrotor reached the required 3m height but a rotor clipped a line, causing "major structural damage to two trusses and a couple of rotors", the team said. Earlier, University of Maryland's (UMD) Gamera II team had failed in its latest attempt on the $250,000 prize.

To win the prize, a human-powered helicopter must hover for 60sec, reaching 3m height and staying within a 10m-square box. The goals have been achieved individually, but no-one has done all three on one flight to claim the prize.

Photo: AeroVelo

While the Gamera team has gone off to find ways to remove weight that has been added over time to their quadrotor, from repairs and the addition of a control system, AeroVelo has emerged from the latest flights convinced its vehicle can win the prize, with a few tweaks and a bit of weight loss.

"We learned lots about our trimming capability (as well as the required precision for higher flights) and the structural behavior with higher power input," says AeroVelo's Cameron Robertson. "Also, we found that we reached 3m more quickly than expected with less power than expected. So we're very happy with what we'ver learned, and know that the prize is achievable with this helicopter, with margin to spare."

Robertson says AeroVelo will make a few modifications to give added clearance on the rotor tips, as well as some weight reductions to make up for repairs. "We have a few weeks of work ahead of us most likely," he says. UMD's Gamera II team, meanwhile, plans to fly again in April, so the race for the prize is still on.

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