Human Powered: Land, Air and Water (and snow)

Riding a bike is a sublime experience. Propelling yourself across the planet is serene, healthy and fun. Your travel is limited to your imagination, and the end of the road or trail. But what do you do if you want to take to the sea or the sky under your own power? Well, here are some human powered transit options that might get you where you want to go.

Human Powered Helicopter

Students at the University of Maryland are trying to build a human powered helicopter that can fulfill the requirements to win the AHS Sikorski Prize. The Sikorski Prize honors Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky who pioneered modern multi engine fixed wing flight and modern helicopter rotor confguration.

Todd Reichert pedals Atlas into the air, as Cameron Robertson (left) and team member Calvin Moes watch from the ground.

Todd Reichert pedals Atlas into the air, as Cameron Robertson (left) and team member Calvin Moes watch from the ground.

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Human Powered Boat

Greg Kolodziejzyk and Bryon Howard sailed their boat, WiTHiN, from Nanaimo, British Colombia to Port McNeil, British Colombia back in 2010.

WiTHiN human powered expedition boat

WiTHiN human powered expedition boat

WiTHiN is a fully faired, encapsulated, self-righting pedal-powered boat capable of high speed in good conditions (3.5 to 3.7 knots) and maintaining way in adverse weather conditions. The boat is made of carbon fiber and optimized for continuous light to moderate human power input and long term provisioning requirements. Stability is maintained with a 100 lb keel bulb mounted one meter below the hull. WiTHiN is easily maneuvered by a hand lever in the cockpit which turns a massive rudder at the stern. []

Even better, this human powered boat is for sale. If you have $84,000 Canadian Dollars ($85,500 USD) this carbon fiber human powered boat with solar electricity can be yours.

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Human Powered Airplane

For fixed wing human powered aircraft there are two ways to stay aloft. You can spin a propeller like a traditional airplane, or you can flip your wings like a bird in what’s called an Ornithopter from the Greek words Ornithos (bird) and Pteron (wing). Students at the University of Toronto are working on some innovative human powered flight engineering challenges.

While the first real human powered flight was way back in 1961 when Derek Piggot flew 650 yards, I remember first reading about human powered flight when National Geographic World Magazine wrote about Bryan Allen’s historic flight of the Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel from England to France, a distance of 35.82 Km.

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And just for fun, here are some other Human Powered Oddities…

Human Powered Snow Mobile

Human Powered Submarines

Fly Wheel Bike

The fly wheel bike concept is human powered-with a twist. On a fly wheel bike, the rider pedals to spin up a fly wheel which is a large wheel that had a high rotating mass. That rotating mass is then applied to the drive wheels of a bike with a clutch and the energy of the spinning wheel can be rapidly converted into forward motion of the bike with much greater acceleration than the rider can generate on his own.

Here’s a demonstration from extreme bike maker William Thomas Porter of PorterCycles and Make Magazine.


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