Aerovelo has just finished the first set of tests on their human powered helicopter Atlas. This past week, I looked in on them as they tested and debugged their machine. An earlier post showed them fabricating some of the subassemblies of the machine, but it is only when it all came together that you could see the scope of their ambitions.
Here is an overall view of the machine, which has a truss with four twin blade rotors and a bicycle frame suspended in the middle. I believe that the total weight of the machine is of the order of 120 pounds or so.
The test facility was an indoor soccer field just north of Toronto. Under the terms which the team rented the facility, they had to disassemble the machine every evening by about 5 pm, and set it up again each morning.
Here is a close up of the drivetrain. There are spools on both sides of the cranks, and at the bottom of the frame, there are four lines running to the large spools attached to the rotor assemblies. As the cranks are turned, the lines are wound onto the spools through the small pulleys below the BB. The spools can hold enough cord for a 1.5 minute flight time.
On Tuesday evening, Atlas flew for the first time, making it only the sixth human powered helicopter to leave the ground.
At the same time, adding to the pressure of the finite amount of time available to make an attempt at the Sikorsky prize, there was the constant drumbeat of accomplishments from Team Gamera at the University of Maryland. On Tuesday, they flew to an altitude of eight feet, and they also exceeded a flight time of a minute in separate flights.
On Friday, they achieved a 15 second flight, and they also demonstrated the effectiveness of the flight controls.
Just after midday on Sunday, during an attempt at a 1.5m high flight, one of the spars in a rotor blade broke shortly after Atlas left the ground.
At this point, I had to leave, and I was not able to watch further attempts on Monday. The amount of dedication and professionalism that the team showed during the whole week was very inspiring. At this point in time, I believe that they are trying to arrange additional time for flight testing, but much of the team is dispersing to go back to school, and some of the team members are also preparing for Battle Mountain, which is next week.