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Two teams race to complete human powered helicopters for $250,000 prize

No one has won the "Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition," but a Toronto team is getting close. 
The competition challenges teams to make a human powered, lightweight helicopter that must hover for 60 seconds and reach an altitude of three metres, staying within a 33-metre parameter. A handful of teams from around the world have given it their best shot since American Helicopter Society launched the international competition in 1980, but the $250,000 prize pledged by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is still up for grabs.
Not if 31-year-old Todd Reichart has his way. The University of Toronto doctoral candidate in aeronautical engineering "built and piloted the world's first continuously flying human-powered ornithopter, an aircraft that propels itself by flapping its wings," according to an article in Popular Mechanics that explores the famed Sikorsky prize and the various attempts that have been made. 
"The following year he broke the college land speed record by hitting 72.6 mph in an enclosed bicycle he designed and built. Now the newly minted Ph.D. and his 26-year-old partner, structural engineer Cameron Robertson, are hoping that the Sikorsky Prize will help finance projects for their fledgling engineering company, AeroVelo." 
Reichart and his team of four student volunteers have been working on a pedal-powered "120-pound flying machine, dubbed Atlas, contains just enough structure to lift Reichert's 165 pounds and scarcely an ounce more." Any wrong move and the thing could fall apart. ?
Reichart's has tough competition down in Maryland, D.C, Popular Mechanics reports. "William Staruk, student team leader for the University of Maryland, is putting his group through similar preparations in an indoor athletic facility—this one a wood-floored gymnasium with a rubberized track around its perimeter." Staruk's Gamera is said to be lighter and "much better tested." It's flown 50 second to Reichart's 15.

With an open deadline it's only a matter of time before someone claims the prize. But as the article points out, "in the 32 years since the prize was established, only five human-powered helicopters have even left the earth." This includes Atlas and Gamera
Read the full story here
Original source: Popular Mechanics
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