We became interested in human-powered helicopters while watching NPR’s Human-Powered Helicopters: Straight Up Difficult! So seeing one of the featured teams finally win the American Helicopter Society (AHS) Sikorsky Prize, after the competition first began in 1980 — 33 years ago — is pretty exciting stuff. 

The goal of the competition: hover for 60 seconds, reach a height of 3 meters, and stay within a 10m x 10m area. Dozens of teams tried and hadn’t (yet) succeeded, until the AeroVelo Atlas team from the University of Toronto met the challenge on 13 June 2013:

This incredible flight was 64.11 seconds in duration (World Record for “Duration on Hover”), reached a 3.3m peak altitude, and drifted a maximum of 9.8m…

We would like the public to understand that with innovative engineering and creative design we can find sustainable and environmentally conscious solutions to many of the technological challenges facing our generation… 

The video above is a compilation of the winning flight and other test flights, but you can watch the entire prize-winning flight of AeroVelo’s Atlas here.

And if the winning flight makes this feat look a bit too easy, check out all of the hard work by Aero Velo and University of Maryland’s Team Gamera, who have been within close range of winning.