Cameron Robertson is co-founder of AeroVelo Inc. and spends his time pushing the limits of human potential. Along with his business partner and fellow speaker Todd Reichert they work on projects that have taken them from human-powered helicopters to aerodynamic bicycles capable of reaching speeds of over 77 mph. The common theme is one of doing more with less: going further with limited resources. Driven by passion and challenge, their journey has led to a unique understanding of what it takes to tackle the impossible.
In 2006 Cameron and Todd set out to accomplish one of humanities oldest aeronautical dreams, with a human-powered aircraft that flies in the imitation of a bird by flapping it’s wings. Their success in 2010 spurred a massive international following and accolades that include Canada’s top aviation honor: the Trans-Canada McKee Trophy. Shortly thereafter the two sought to tackle the AHS Sikorsky Prize: a challenge requiring a human-powered helicopter to reach an altitude of 3 metres and stay aloft for 60 seconds. In only 18 months the team achieved what many had thought to be impossible, bringing home the $250,000 prize that had remained untouched for over 33 years. Todd and Cameron are currently working on the design of a bicycle to capture the human-powered land-speed record. Capable of breaking highway speed limits on less than one horsepower, these space-age aerodynamic vehicles boast an equivalent fuel efficiency 80 times better than the average car.
These projects and achievements have been featured in Wired, Popular Science, Air & Space and Explore Magazine; on Mythbusters, Daily Planet and National Geographic; on world-wide television and print media including the New York Times, as well as being the subject of a full-length documentary on the Documentary Channel.
AeroVelo Inc. was founded in 2012 as a platform for taking on high-profile, thought-provoking and seemingly impossible engineering challenges. AeroVelo’s focus on human-powered vehicles is meant to inspire, demonstrating the untapped potential of the human mind and body. It is also meant to demonstrate what can be achieved on a small and highly-limited amount of energy. Well-chosen design constraints breed unique and creative ideas, leading to innovation and transformative solutions.
Cameron and Todd met at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, Cameron earning his MASc in 2010 and Todd his PhD in 2011. For both Todd and Cameron, AeroVelo brings together a multitude of passions from athletics to aerodynamics, to sustainable engineering, art and filmmaking. When they’re not working on their latest challenge, Cameron and Todd enjoy time in the outdoors, canoeing, sailing, skiing or rock climbing, and time with their families in Toronto and Ottawa.
Challenging the Impossible
Whether technological or personal, challenge is the driving force behind discovery. Yet we are so quick to shy away from a challenge, often dismissively categorizing it as impossible. Cameron and Todd use their journey through a variety of historical engineering achievements as a case study in taking on the impossible. In isolating four key ingredients of innovation, Todd and Cameron describe how we can get past the assumptions and constraints that narrow our vision, and how we can prepare ourselves to take on creative endeavors and difficult challenges.