each adjacent rotor
axle instead of those
to opposing axles. This
reduced the large
in drive power.
We were testing
again in early June.
With a new full-time,
team, we planned a
five-day block of
testing and focused
on taking deliberate
and incremental steps.
After we made small
bracing lines and rotor
angles, Atlas was
finally behaving in a
controlled and consistent manner.
Going into the fifth day, we were able to
leave the helicopter assembled
overnight, pre-trimmed and in excellent
shape for a prize attempt in the
morning. As the primary pilot, Todd was
able to take an ice bath, recover and get
some rest before starting his focused
warm-up routine the next day.
On the morning of the prize-winning
flight, we performed two checkout
flights to roughly 2 and 2.5 m.We made
final trimming adjustments and ensured
that everything behaved properly as
altitude and input power were
increased. On the prize-winning flight,
Todd shot up like a rocket, peaking at
1,100 W (nearly 1.5 hp) and clearing the
3 m mark within 10 sec. To avoid vortex-
ring state (a potential cause of previous
crashes), he maintained power and Atlas
used the rest of the minute to descend
as slowly as possible. The helicopter
drifted left, but Todd leaned
aggressively to the right to maintain
control. Upon landing, a momentary
silence was shattered by cheers and
applause. In an instant, 18 months of
intense focus and dedication were
committed to history.
The Pillars of Success
e are often asked what led to
our success. There is no single
magic ingredient, but in a
general sense it can
be distilled into four
First and foremost
was the small,
came on board with
no promise of pay
and worked together
with passion and a
Second was a
and familiarity with
the work of experts
that had come before
us.We made sure not
to reinvent the wheel,
techniques that had
been mastered for
the human-powered AeroVironment
Gossamer Albatross, the MIT Daedalus,
and our Snowbird.
The third factor was seeing beyond
the constraints that had held back
previous designs, particularly regarding
the enormous size required.
The final factor was perseverance.
This project gave us an entirely new
concept of persistence, challenging our
drive and motivation with every setback
and every crash. Needless to say, it was
all worth it.
We’ve established AeroVelo as a
design and innovation lab focused on
engineering projects. Our greater
mission is to engage in projects that
Vol. 59, No. 5
Top view of Altas in the Ontario Soccer Centre a few days after the first flight on August 28,
2012. (AHS photo)
Close-up view of the center of the Atlas trusses. (AeroVelo photo by Jake
Repair of the rotor mid-spar after a September 1, 2012 impact.
(AeroVelo photo by ckmmphotographic/Mike Campbell)