Jump to content

News Article

Recommended Posts

I don'y know how to post photo's, but the picture can be found in Todays Globe and Mail


Photo: Richard Lam/CP

Peter Hudson, pilot of the human-powered helicopter dubbed Project Thunderbird, tries to take off during the initial test flight in Vancouver on Tuesday.





Globe and Mail Update


E-mail this Article

Print this Article









After six years of planning, design and construction on its human-powered helicopter, a team of faculty and students at the University of British Columbia couldn't get the machine off the ground Tuesday, missing out on a $20,000 cash prize.


"It was a no-go," Sherry Green, a spokeswoman for UBC's engineering department, told globeandmail.com. "They had technical difficulties."


Still, Ms. Green said there was a huge turnout to the inaugural flight attempt and that everybody was hyped.


The effort was being closely watched by a contingent from the American Helicopter Society, who launched the human-powered helicopter flight competition more than two decades ago.


Had the Thunderbird met the regulations by hovering above ground for at least one minute and hitting a peak height of 3 metres, the UBC team would have achieved a first.


In recent years, 18 such machines, which are powered by pedalling, have been built by countries around the world and entered into the competition. None has yet claimed the prize.


Only two attempts have ever flown — the longest, from Japan, was for fewer than 20 seconds and hovered only inches off the ground.


"It would be great if we could meet the challenge, but we'd also be just as happy if we could beat the current record," Ms. Green had told globeandmail.com. before the attempt.


The Thunderbird was built following massive research and analysis into a slew of possible designs that were eventually whittled down to a final five.


UBC's final choice has a "co-axial counter-rotating design" involving two rotor blades of different diametres that spin at different RPMs to produce an equal but opposite torque above the pedalling pilot.


It has a mass of 140 kilograms (including the pilot) and a wingspan of 36 metres — greater than that of a Boeing 737.


More than 160 students at UBC's mechanical engineering department have worked on the Thunderbird Project since its inception in 1998, but only six to 12 people, headed by team leader Mike Georgallis, work on it at any one time.


Subprojects have included building a rig to test small and full-scale rotors as well as the human effect, and cooking the composite spars in modified household ovens.


Wind tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics were also used in the craft's design and development, which has cost approximately $75,000, roughly half of which has come from jet maker Boeing.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like holding a referendum on separating from your homeland to create your very own country, this pedalcopter project would be fun to try if someone else funds it. :)


I might approach a high performance bicycle manufacturer for a strong and super-lightweight frame and switch the chain drive for a cogged belt for this application. Next, and based on glider design, I think I would try to stay with a tip-weighted high aspect-ratio blade system rather than the sweeping beasts used by this team.


Then for the anti-torque system I'd stick with the standard t/r using lightweight, not-necessarily-durable materials such as weedwacker monofilament for t/r pitch control.


Finally, ask Catriona Lemay-Doan if she's interested in building some r/w time.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...