Human powered helicopter grounded


January 20, 2004

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January 21, 2004 In 1980, the American Helicopter Society issued a reward of US$20,000 for the first group to build a human powered helicopter. The conditions of flight were to hover in a 10 metre square zone for a minute and reach a height of three metres. Since then around 20 unsuccessful attempts have been made on the feat and none have come close, though with the most recent attempt on August 10, 2004 from the University of British Columbia having failed also.

The University of British Columbia "Thunderbird" is based around two rotors rotating in opposite directions. The upper rotor is actually longer than the wing span on a 737 and plans called for the upper rotor to rotate at 3.5 rpm and the lower rotor at 6 rpm, giving a lift of 137 kilos.

That's the amount of weight that the pilot and helicopter must weigh less than for the Thunderbird to get off the ground and although the team was hopeful based on its calculations, it didn't happen first time out.

The team's home page hasn't posted the inside story yet but the Vancouver Sun has the story.

Let's hope the repairs are successful.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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