Aerospace students set out to build human-powered aircraft

Following the news that Toronto University PhD candidate Todd Reichert has taken to the skies in a man-powered aircraft comes the revelation that Bath University students could soon be following in his footsteps.

Final-year aerospace engineering students are now actively involved in building a human-powered aircraft as part of their degree.

The Bath project was started by Gareth Evans from Airbus, who designed the frame for a human-powered plane but was unable to finish it owing to a lack of resources and space. He donated it to the university so that engineering students could complete it.

Last year, final-year aerospace engineering students Dan Scarfe and Jon Cherry took on the challenge and designed and built wings for the aircraft using their knowledge of previous human aviation. This year, a new group of students will build on this design to complete the plane and test it out to see if it flies.

Dr James Cunningham, a reader in Mechanical Engineering at the university and supervisor of the project, said that it represented a real challenge for the students as it combined their knowledge of structures and aerodynamics to design and build a pedal-powered lightweight aircraft.

’The aim is to build the aircraft using readily available low-cost materials and relatively simple technologies,’ he said.

The students expect to be carrying out the first test flights by Easter 2011.