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Aerospace Help Design a Human-Powered Helicopter

  1. Sep 18, 2009 #1

    I have started a website to facilitate the design of a human-powered helicopter. Please visit this website if you are interested in joining:

    http://sites.google.com/site/humanpoweredhelicopter/ [Broken]

    We need great engineers to solve this difficult problem. If interested in giving your time, please email me at jzvonek@gmail.com.


    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2009 #2


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    Difficult indeed! At face value it seems like an impossible problem!
  4. Sep 19, 2009 #3


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    Looking at the human-powered plane efforts, and being an amateur bicyclist, I see no way for a human-powered helicopter to be practical for more than a few seconds. Ouch.
  5. Sep 19, 2009 #4
    First you need a good cyclist. Bringing the blades to velocity is an issue. I'd read the fine print over how to torque it up. The less stress on the pilot to overcome inertia under potentially adverse gearing could be a major issue.

    Only 3 meters?? A lot of ground effect is in play. Can the rotor tips be closer to the ground than 3 meters?

    Stability and control I would leave up to electronics if allowed.

    The Gossamer Albatross had a wingspan of 47 feet with a root cord of about 6 feet. The top speed during the Channel crossing was 18 mph. Keep that in mind when you consider rotor diameter. Isn't it the last 1/4 of the rotor blade that does half the lifting?

    So where are the rules of the game? A Wikipedia page isn't enough.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2009
  6. Sep 19, 2009 #5
    Here is a link to the rules:

    http://www.vtol.org/awards/hphregs.html [Broken]

    Also, the prize has just been increased to $250,000 from the original $20,000.

    I don't know if ground effect would be significant with the slow-moving rotors of a human-powered helicopter. I've seen experiment results that show the effect dropping off quickly as the rotors move away from the ground (< 3m).

    Stability and control will be major issues, and I believe electronics are not allowed by the rules.

    And the problem is not impossible. We have better engineering tools than at any time in the past. We just have to take advantage of them.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Sep 19, 2009 #6


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    When they say 'human powered' - do they count 'human fuelled'?
    A gas turbine will run on bio-diesel !
  8. Sep 19, 2009 #7
    Looks like you are going to need Leonardo on this one.
  9. Sep 19, 2009 #8


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    He's gonna need angels for this. They're the only way a human powered helicopter is going to get off the ground.

    It's people. Jet fuel is made out of people. They're making our jet fuel out of people.
  10. Sep 19, 2009 #9
    I wouldn't be as quick to dismiss a human powered helicopter. But, according to the set of rules quoted, it has to take off and remain within a 10 meter square. This limits the blades to about 4 meter each.

    I'm not versed in helicopter efficiency, but it seems that twice the rotor disk area should about double the efficiency. Earlier I noted that the Gossamer Albatross had a wingspan 47 foot span. This might compare to a 47 foot rotor disk.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2009
  11. Sep 19, 2009 #10


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    I'll absolutely dismiss it. The power that can be provided by a good cyclist is somewhere in the area of 300 W. Not only will you be hard pressed to find a very light person that can put out that kind of continuous power, you have to deal with the structural aspects of aa helicopter. It does not lend itself to light and whispy structures like the Albatross did.
  12. Sep 19, 2009 #11
    Why is that?
  13. Sep 19, 2009 #12


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    Look at the rotor head and blades alone.
  14. Sep 19, 2009 #13

    D H

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    You are misreading the rules. It's not the whole vehicle; just one single point on the vehicle.
    A reference point on the non-rotating part of the machine will be established an a means whereby the observers can judge that the machine stayed within the confines of the 10-meter square.​

    The basic feat has already been achieved, twice. Just not for the requisite time and height.
  15. Sep 19, 2009 #14
    D H is right. Human-powered helicopters have already gotten off the ground. A few great ideas on how to improve the design will win the prize.
  16. Sep 19, 2009 #15
    Yes, I believe you're right. It's ambigiously written.
  17. Sep 19, 2009 #16

    D H

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    How is that ambiguous?
  18. Sep 19, 2009 #17
    You're joking? Nowhere is it stated what parts of the craft cannot drift outside the square, or even for that matter if they are talking about the 'reference point' staying in the square.
  19. Sep 19, 2009 #18
    Well, it doesn't have to support a gun plateform, and there's more than one way to skin a cat. Look at the toy models available and their novel designs.
  20. Sep 20, 2009 #19

    Ranger Mike

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    Fred...them old Charlton Heston movies are really takin their toll on you, aren't they??
  21. Sep 20, 2009 #20


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    Source please. A quick Google search showed a "helicopter" that barely got off the ground and which I agree is a human powered hovercraft, not a helicopter.

    The competition states that they have never awarded this award.

    I'll sit firm in my skepticism.
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