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The University of Southampton

Southampton students win human powered flight competition

Published: 24 March 2022
Formula Flight competition

A team of Southampton students are celebrating winning the first Formula Flight competition by flying their human powered aircraft (HPA) for five seconds.

The students, all members of the Southampton University Human Powered Aircraft Society (SUHPA) and led by Engineering student Charles Dhenin, built their aircraft Lazarus which flew for the longest time in the Formula Flight competition, run by the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Human Powered Flight Group .

The event challenges teams to design, build and fly their own human powered aircraft. The aircraft has to be a new design, be powered exclusively by the muscle power of the pilot, be heavier than air, fly for more than five seconds and finish in good condition so no crash landings are allowed.

The Southampton team built their aircraft mostly from XPS foam, carbon fibre and balsa wood. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed them down a bit, but eventually they finished Lazarus and made their maiden flight in June 2021.

Charles said: “Winning was amazing, it really gave me confidence in the project, and gave everybody in the team the motivation to continue. We will be using the prize money of £1,000 to build parts of our new aircraft so it will be ready for the 2022 Icarus cup competition.

“We had to figure everything out as we went, having very little experience with aircraft manufacturing. I met and received help from a number of fantastic people who gave their help and advice and made the process much easier. The American human powered aircraft designer Alec Proudfoot helped us a lot.

“Being able to work on such a large-scale project was incredibly important for all members of the team. We gained hands-on experience, decision-making, and engineering skills. We learnt a huge amount about the aircraft, and I have now taken these findings and transformed them into a new design for the Super Lazarus, which we are currently building.

“The competition itself was very difficult, but great fun! We were up at 3/4am every day to check the weather, before flying the aircraft until 9am when the wind usually became too strong. We made many modifications to the aircraft to try and improve its performance. By the end of the week everyone was exhausted but it was a great experience.”

President of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Human Powered Flight Group, Bill Brooks said: "It is fantastic that team Lazarus has won the inaugural Formula Flight. Building an HPA is very challenging and even flying for five seconds is incredibly difficult. I am really looking forward to seeing how Team Lazarus improves their aircraft in the future."

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