Dr. Daniel Opila

Human Powered Helicopter

Helicopter and studentA student team at Michigan was attempting to build a human powered helicopter for the Sikorsky Prize (since won by the AeroVelo Atlas). The goal is for one or more human pilots must power the helicopter in a hover for at least one minute, rising above 3m at least once. Although possible, success requires flawless design and construction. The longest sustained hover during my involvement was less than 30 seconds. It takes significantly more power to achieve the 3m mark because the rotors rise out of ground effect.

The Gossamer Condor was the first human-powered plane capable of controlled, sustained flight and won the Kremer Prize in 1977. The human-powered aircraft distance record was set when the MIT Daedelus flew between the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini in 1988.

I participated relatively heavily my first 2-3 years at Michigan as a grad student. I mostly provided technical advice and mentoring to the undergraduates. I worked with team leaders to develop high-level goals and plan group activities. I guided individual students or small groups in design, analysis, simulation, and model building. I emphasized the practical aspects of a development process: the balance and timing among hand analysis, CAD, model-based testing, and full-scale construction.

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