While students at University of Toronto, AeroVelo team members Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson initiated and carried out the Human-Powered Ornithopter (HPO) Project. The HPO Project was started within the Human-Powered Vehicle Design Team, a student organization at University of Toronto that focused on the design and construction of innovative, high-performance, human-powered vehicles. The HPO team sought to achieve one of humanity’s oldest dreams with the successful flight of a human-powered, flapping-wing aircraft, the last of the aviation firsts. As with the first successful propeller-driven human-powered aircraft in 1977, the first official flight of a human-powered flapping wing aircraft captured the hearts and minds of the international community. The overall team goal was to provide students with practical hands on experience in engineering design while at the same time promoting efficiency, sustainability and the use of human power as a means of reducing society’s impact on the environment.
The HPO started as a spin-off of the flapping-wing research being conducted at the University of Toronto. The team was comprised of a dedicated, energetic group of graduate and undergraduate engineering students either working on a thesis project or volunteering their time outside of the classroom. An advisory board of experienced aerospace engineers, including successful ornithopter designer Prof. James DeLaurier, lent their expertise to the project. Also, the team is collaborated with Dutch rowingbike designer Derk Thys, who brought to the project more than twenty years of experience in the design of efficient rowing mechanisms. A Rowingbike mechanism was used in the HPO to transmit power from the pilot to the wings.
The project was initiated in the summer of 2006 with initial low-fidelity proof-of-concept simulations. Research and testing of various construction techniques took place between 2006 and the summer of 2008 when the team relocated to the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ontario, to begin construction. Construction primarily took place in a barn on-site during the summer of 2008 and 2009. The first flight tests began in October of 2009 and resumed, after a winter hiatus, in July 2010. The design team consisted primarily of 3 graduate students, 9 undergraduate students, 3 exchange students from France and the Netherlands, 1 professorial advisor and 3 industry advisors. In total, the design, construction and flight-testing involved 5 graduate students, 14 undergraduate students, 7 exchange students, over 20 community volunteers and 4 senior advisers.