This summer, the Canadian aero-engineers Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson became the first winners of the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition, a challenge set by the American Helicopter Society a full 33 years earlier.
Their Atlas design–a strange hanging-mobile of wires and carbon fiber measuring 190 feet across and weighing just 115 pounds–successfully met criteria of flying three meters off the ground for at least 60 seconds. It’s pretty amazing, as you can see in the video below.
In the clip below, Reichert and Robertson talk about how they approached the challenge, and their attitude to design and engineering in general. Their credo, paraphrased, is “don’t accept other people’s limits of what is possible.” The video is from a recent PopTech event:
Before the helicopter challenge, Reichert and Robertson also built the world’s first human-powered ornithopter, called Snowbird. It’s a giant flapping-winged bird-plane, again propelled by bike. They’re now working on a recumbent “Speedbike” they hope will eventually be able to go at least 100 miles per hour “while still having the utility necessary for carrying groceries and traveling safely within a city.”
Yes, Reichert and Robertson practice what they preach about not accepting other people’s limits.