A competition set up in 1980 for the first successful controlled flight of a human powered helicopter has finally been won by a Canadian team.
The group, AeroVelo led by Todd Reichert, took the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter prize after 33 years, sharing a £165,000 (nearly $250,000) bounty between them. Their helicopter is the first to reach a height of three meters (about 10ft) while hovering for at least one minute in a 10 square-meter area.
That doesn't sound like much, but the necessity for it to be entirely human-powered stumped engineers for decades. The winning machine, nicknamed Atlas, has a wingspan of 47 meters (about 155 feet) but weighs just 54 kilograms (nearly 120lbs).
It's constructed from carbon fiber tubes that connect its four huge rotors to a central bicycle. By pumping those pedals, Reichert delivers enough energy to get them to rotate, creating lift and allowing the helicopter to rise above the ground.
"This isn't something that you're going to commute to work in any time soon, but it's an exercise in really pushing the limits on what's physically possible, and what you can do with lightweight materials and really creative design," Reichert told local reporters.
The project began in January 2012 but two crashes along the way forced the team to start again each time. They faced stiff competition from a team from the University of Maryland, which had a much larger team but were pipped to the post by the University of Toronto group.
Reichert and his chief engineer Cameron Robertson have set up a company and they intend to work on developing other human powered vehicles.