Atlas human-powered helicopter takes off into history

(CBS News) On June 13, a Canadian engineering team finally captured the elusive Sikorsky prize awarded to the "first successful controlled flight of a human-powered helicopter." The aviation award was established in 1980, and this is the first helicopter to win it. Watch what a lot of determination, leg strength and scientific skill -- combined with a little bit of help from Kickstarter -- can create in the video above. It is pretty awe-inspiring.

The helicopter (which was piloted by 31-year-old Todd Reichert and his powerful biking legs) stayed airborne for 64.11 seconds, and reached a 10.8 feet (3.3 meters) peak altitude, according to the team's site. In order to win the Sikorsky prize, an "aircraft using only human power" had to fly for at least 60 seconds, reach a height of at least 9.8 feet (3 meters) and hover over a 32.8-by-32.8 feet (10-by-10 meter) area.

And while Reichert makes it look all so easy, it was anything but. In an interview with Popular Mechanics, he said, "You're so focused on having the body do a very precise thing. If you lay off the power even a little bit, or make any sharp control movement, you can crash."

The team was able to win this award through the help of the public after they launched a Kickstarter campaign to help build the human-fueled helicopter where they raised an impressive $34,000. AeroVelo won $250,000 for its flight, but we're sure the bragging rights are pretty priceless.

  • Lesley Savage

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