The Sikorsky prize for human-powered helicopters has been claimed by a Kickstarter-funded startup called Aerovelo. Aerovelo's founders, Canadians Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, won the $250,000 purse for the 30-second flight of Atlas, a huge quadrotor with a bike in the middle whose flight is an absolute marvel to behold.
At that point, Reichert knew that the challenge was to keep supplying enough power through his legs to keep the craft from descending too quickly. On two previous flights in which he'd flirted with the three-meter mark, Reichert had descended too abruptly and fallen afoul of a phenomenon called vortex ring state, in which a helicopter essentially gets sucked down by its own downwash. Both times Atlas had been wrecked. This time, Reichert spent the balance of the flight easing the craft down gently to the ground. "You're so focused on having the body do a very precise thing," he told Pop Mech. "If you lay off the power even a little bit, or make any sharp control movement, you can crash."
Finally! A Human-Powered Helicopter Wins the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize [Jeff Wise/Popular Mechanics]