Zero Motorcycles Founder Leaves Company To Enter The Sikorsky Competition

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Empirical, Apr 22, 2011.

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  1. Apr 22, 2011 #1
    It's rare to hear any info about individuals or teams that are investing time and money to build a successful HPH. Even more rare, to hear that an aeronautical engineer, known for his innovations and his previous attempt in 1989 that did lifted off the ground, has left his successful electric motorcycle company, in order to focus on this specific challenge:


    "Neal Saiki, who co-founded Zero Motorcycles with his wife, Lisa, retired last week from his post as chief technology officer and company evangelist of the 68-person international company to pursue a decades-old passion.

    The 44-year-old aeronautical engineer, who has a long history of successful technological inventions, from mountain bike suspensions and medical devices to rock climbing technology, is designing a pedal-powered helicopter that he hopes will stay aloft long enough to garner the $250,000 prize in the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition.

    The Sikorsky prize has eluded for 31 years the most innovative engineers -- including Saiki, who managed in 1989 to head up the first team to get a human-powered helicopter aloft. Saiki said last week that he expects to begin testing his design in six months and will be ready to win the prize in a year.

    If he does, he will be the first to solve the aeronautical equation of how to maintain flight for one minute and reach a height of three meters on human power and ingenuity alone. His last record-breaking feat, while he was a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was to get a human-powered machine to rise nearly eight inches off the ground for just more than seven seconds."

    "Saiki is protective of what he describes as revolutionary technology that is the culmination of more than a decade of calculations relating to bits and pieces of the lift equation. It is, he says, a combination of aerodynamics and structural design. He expects to eventually assemble a team to help, then recruit the best Olympic-class bicycle rider available to pedal the vehicle with enough force to create the necessary vertical lift."

    Read the full story:
    Zero Motorcycles founder plans flying feat - Santa Cruz Sentinel


    Bottom line:
    Some (of us) still believe it is feasible, although there is no successful attempt in 3 decades. There have been official announcements before, but not from known individuals with previous experience, expertise, money and determination. BTW the only other serious active attempt I'm aware of, is from University of Maryland: YouTube - UMD Gamera Human Powered Helicopter Promo So will this have been achieved in about a year? This is the question...
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2011
  2. Apr 24, 2011 #2





    Jul 8, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Rotterdam, Netherlands
    Yes, I certainly think it's achievable if you look at the fundamentals. (rotor equation and human parameters).

    There are 2 major problems:
    *Structures. Bigger rotor is more static thrust per horsepower/Watt. But it comes at a price, mostly in structures. Torsion in your rotor blades is a huge problem, as is tensile strength (goes with V^2/R) and light weight. Keeping a 150 ft rotor light enough such that you can still lift it is no small challenge.
    *Control. A large enough rotor (way larger than 100 ft) at such low weight is a nightmare to control.

    But those are problems that can be solved. Certainly not easy, but someone who's determined and knowledgeable enough, yeah, he might stand a pretty good chance to succeed.

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