It's been 33 years, but finally experts from the University of Toronto have claimed the Igor I. Sikorsky Prize.
AeroVelo, a team of engineers from the University of Toronto, have built and successfully flown the first human powered helicopter, thus winning the Igor I. Sikorsky Prize and the $250,000 that goes with it. The team's 52 kg (115 lb) helicopter, powered exclusively by those legs you see frantically pumping away there like a swan with a really urgent desire to be somewhere else, stayed aloft at 3 meters for sixty seconds.
The quarter million was donated by Sikorsky Aircraft, and the competition has been going for over 30 years without a winner. The American Helicopter Society, which has been running the competition, was initially only able to offer a $10,000 top prize, but Sikorsky was persuaded to up the ante in 2009. The cunning Canadians triumphed over their rivals at the University of Maryland; the two teams have been duking it out since 2009, each eager to beat the other aloft. Maryland's Gamera and its subsequent iterations did get off the ground, but didn't stay up there long enough to satisfy the time requirement. "The AHS Sikorsky Prize challenged the technical community to harness teamwork, technical skills and cutting edge technologies to meet requirements that were on the ragged edge of feasibility," says the AHS. "It took AeroVelo's fresh ideas, daring engineering approach and relentless pursuit of innovation ... to succeed in achieving what many in vertical flight considered impossible."
Next stop, Columbia! Keep pedalling, you. Don't make me use Shock Jockey!