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Comment Re: Assembly Language, (Score 1) 615

I worked in bookstores to help put myself through college, and would quickly become known as the person to send customers to who were asking for those weirdo books on sed and awk or lex and yacc. Even as recently as 2002-2005, though, some bookstores and computer shops still had excellent selections on some pretty obscure topics. Some of the guys who worked at the college back in the early 90s, though, and who had been there since the 50s and 60s -- analog radio and broadcast engineers -- man, those guys were walking encyclopedias. It was great to hear their stories of how the college radio station was first set up, in 1960, and how things were back then. I always felt as if I had missed a really important time in our nation's history.

Submission + - $250k Human Powered Helicopter prize has been won after 33 years

daltec writes: While many aerospace engineers thought it could not be done, the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter competition has been won, after 33 years of trying. Canada's AeroVelo has claimed the $250,000 prize, having successfully met the contest requirements for an aircraft using only human power to fly for at least 60 seconds, reach an altitude of at least 3 meters (9.8 feet) and remain hovering over a 10 by 10 meter (32.8 by 32.8 foot) area.

"Atlas," AeroVelo's winning design, is said to be larger than any operational helicopter ever constructed, based on its overall width of 58 meters (190 feet), even though it weighs only 52 kilograms (115 pounds). It has four 20.4 meter (67 foot) diameter rotors that are powered by the pilot pedaling a Cervelo carbon-fiber bicycle. The Atlas project was begun in January 2012 and made its first flight in August 2012.

AeroVelo is one of three teams recently flying as part of the AHS competition. The others are the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland with its Gamera II helicopter, and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California with its Upturn II aircraft.

There is a video of the winning flight here. Congratulations to AeroVelo on this landmark achievement!

Comment Re:Oh, and Canada, too (Score 3, Informative) 33

Maryland is testing today and flying this weekend -- it's entirely possible that they may win the prize tomorrow. AeroVelo made some attempts over the past couple weeks, and came very close, but damage to the aircraft has evidently put them out of commission for at least another couple weeks or so -- no chance of them winning it for a while. Hope that helps! Latest news here.

Comment Re:Close - to the ground (Score 2) 33

The contest rules state that the height requirement has to be reached only momentarily (albeit by the part of the aircraft closest to the ground). So they can cruise at 4 ft, 5 ft, and then really pump it for a one- or two-second flight up to 10 ft, and then come back down. Which even that is proving far easier said than done -- a third requirement is that some reference origin point on the aircraft must stay within a 10 square meter box, for the entirety of the time requirement. Both the Canada and Maryland teams have suffered some pretty spectacular crashes, trying to meet all three of those requirements. Luckily nobody has been hurt. Yet! The rules don't say anything about a safe or controlled landing!

Submission + - Human-Powered Helicopter Team set to Claim $250k Sikorsky Prize (

daltec writes: The $250,000 American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize, unclaimed since 1980, is now closer than ever to being won. With flights up to ten feet in altitude and lasting over 65 seconds, the prize's strict requirements (thought by many to be impossible to satisfy) have all been met — but not on the same flight. Two teams — AeroVelo in Canada and Gamera II at the University of Maryland — are tantalizingly close to claiming the prize. The Gamera team will be making its latest attempt this weekend.

Comment Another crash! (Score 1) 59

Well, the craft suffered another malfunction, this time in flight. It appeared that nothing touched the ground or hit anything, it just broke in mid-flight. Nobody was hurt, and it appears that a new record for height was reached, as the last flight unofficially broke nine feet. More info on the team's twitter feed.

Comment Re:That's not today! (Score 2) 59

Today they unofficially broke nine feet. There was an NAA observer there who will certify the altitude, but even he said it was about 9.3 feet. And if 3 meters is about 9.8 feet, they were really close. Unfortunately, something broke and the vehicle crashed, well short of the required 60 seconds.

Comment Re:That's not today! (Score 1) 59

Not yet -- the rules of the contest are pretty specific, but basically they have achieved the duration and stability requirements, and have almost gotten the altitude requirements -- but never on the same flight. They are hoping to win the prize today. Interestingly enough, another competing team in Canada is flying this very weekend.

Comment Repairs complete, ready to fly again! (Score 5, Informative) 59

The aircraft was damaged Thursday evening after another attempt at altitude. The team has repaired the craft though and resumed testing just a few minutes ago. The flights are taking place at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, MD 20785, if you want to see their latest attempts!

Submission + - Human-Powered Helicopter Team Sets New Records for Altitude and Flight Duration (

daltec writes: The $250,000 American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize, unclaimed since 1980, is now within Gamera II’s reach. On Thursday, the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering team unofficially satisfied two of the three American Helicopter Society Sikorsky Prize requirements. The giant craft flew for 65 seconds, stayed within a 10 square meter area and hovered at two feet of altitude. New unofficial U.S. and world flight duration records were also set. The team expects to make their next attempt Saturday.
The Military

Submission + - US Army to Train Rats to Save Soldiers' Lives

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Department of Defense currently relies on dogs as the animal of choice for explosives detection but training dogs is expensive and takes a long time. Now the US Army is sponsoring a project to develop and test a rugged, automated and low-cost system for training rats to detect improvised explosive devices and mines. “The automated system we’re developing is designed to inexpensively train rats to detect buried explosives to solve an immediate Army need for safer and lower-cost mine removal,” says senior research engineer William Gressick. Trained rats would also create new opportunities to detect anything from mines to humans buried in earthquake rubble because rats can search smaller spaces than a dog can, and are easier to transport. Rats have already been trained by the National Police in Colombia to detect seven different kinds of explosives including ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, gunpowder and TNT but the Rugged Automated Training System (Rats) research sponsored by the US. Army Research Laboratory, plans to produce systems for worldwide use since mines are widespread throughout much of Africa, Asia, and Central America and demining operations are expected to continue for decades to restore mined land to civilian use. “Beyond this application, the system will facilitate the use of rats in other search tasks such as homeland security and search-and-rescue operations" adds Gressick. "In the long-term, the system is likely to benefit both official and humanitarian organizations.”"

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