Aurora Coltman
Silhouette Intern

For years, researchers and engineers have puzzled over how to make a human-powered helicopter. On June 13, 2013, Cameron Robertson and Todd Reichert, the ‘AeroVelo’ team, saw that dream realized they successfully met the conditions of the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Challenge. And with this accomplishment behind them, the pair are set to visit McMaster on Sept. 25.

The challenge, established in the 1980s, offered a $250,000 reward for anyone who could meet three conditions: that the human-powered helicopter fly for one minute, rise to at least three metres and not drift outside of a 10-by-10 metre square.

Robertson and Reichert’s helicopter, named Atlas, met the criteria by allowing for a flight of 64 seconds, at 3.3 metres off the ground. The helicopter itself was not the usual metal breed; the light-weight bicycle frame was strung between a framework of poles upon which sat four giant propeller blades. The symmetry of the object, and rotation of the blades – two clockwise, and two counter-clockwise – allowed the device to hover within its 10-by-10 metre square, and rise to the appropriate altitude, all of it powered by the bicycle frame in the centre, pedalled by Reichert himself.

With the prize won, Robertson and Reichert intend to move on to new plans – a bicycle that moves at highway speeds – but before that they will make a stop at Mac. The two will offer a talk in Chester New Hall 104, starting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25, and will give first-hand accounts of their ordeals designing, fabricating, and making work a human-powered helicopter.

Matt Pinder and Manbir Dhillon are hosting the team at the university in the hopes that that students will leave with inspired.

“We’ve made first-year engineering students a big target of [this presentation] because it’s a really good way to showcase what mechanical engineering has to offer,” said Pinder.

He explained that after all students go into their general stream, they then have to choose a pathway, and that this presentation will be an opportunity to discover what mechanical engineering has to offer.

Robertson and Reichert each have degrees in aerospace engineering, and have put together “a kind of generic TED talk” that they will expand upon and present on Sept. 25.

Dhillon said, “When I attended their conference [in Toronto], I personally wanted to start a bicycle team here as well. It’s inspirational.”

Their talk explains their successes as well as failures. Pinder and Dhillon spoke of how many times Robertson and Reichert rebuilt, and how many times Reichert fell from his three-metre altitude.

“It [would be] pretty painful, and they have come from all that, they didn’t quit…. I think that’s a great story of if you keep fighting for something, you can succeed as well,” said Dhillon.

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