Watercraft speed record the target for French pedal-power champion

Back in 2016, Rousson set a world record for human-powered balloon flight by clocking 13.7 knots (15.7 miles an hour). Now he's set to break another with a propeller-powered watercraft.
Ameya Paleja
Rousson during one of the test of Aeroster prototype
Rousson during one of the test of Aeroster prototype

Stephane Rousson/YouTube 

On October 27, 1991, Mark Drela pedaled a watercraft built by the Decavitator team at MIT at 18.5 knots (21.28 miles an hour), setting a record. More than three decades later, Stéphane Rousson has set himself a target to beat it with his two propeller-powered watercraft, New Atlas reported.

A veteran of the French Navy, Rousson has marked his place in history for his human-powered endeavors to fly and dive underwater. Astronaut Jean-François Clervoy coined the new word "Astroceanaut" to encompass Rousson's achievements that are nothing like a regular pilot and much more than a regular athlete.

Human-powered flight is a tough one to master, requires countless hours of engineering, and is severely limited by the output of two legs that are no more than 150 watts. That's about the output of some of the basic drone motors you buy off the shelf today. Getting a vehicle airborne with such little power is indeed an achievement, and Rousson has done this time and again.

What works in the air works in water too

Back in 2016, Rousson set a world record for human-powered balloon flight by clocking 13.7 knots (15.7 miles an hour). This was done while shooting with a TV channel crew, and now the man wants to claim the title for a human-powered journey on water too.

As with his previous attempts, the watercraft needs to be built from scratch, and Rousson began work in this direction by putting together the first prototype. Dubbed the Aeroster, Rousson's human effort will be transferred into motion for the watercraft by two propellers, each nearly 10 feet (three meters) in diameter.

The propellers are positioned off-center for improved airflow and have been recycled from "Zeppy" –an aircraft that Rousson debuted in 2008. The nacelle has also found its way into the Aerostar prototype, which means the watercraft needs to be piloted while sitting upright.

Upgrades before record-breaking attempt

The watercraft used in 1991 positioned the pilot in a recumbent position – lying down with face and torso positioned upwards. This minimizes the drag and increases speed. Rousson is, however, banking on the advantages of a more natural balance and better visibility by sitting upright to compensate for the increased drag.

Apart from that, the Aeroster prototype will get some engineering upgrades to help in its endeavor to break a record that has been standing for three decades. The prototype frame is currently attached to 13 feet (four-meter) long floats. This will be upgraded to longer 20 feet (six-meter) floats that weigh not more than 6.6 pounds (three kgs) and also be equipped with oscillating hydrofoils to improve performance.

The propellers run independently of each other but are connected through a chain to the prop drive mechanism. Rousson plans to replace them with a belt mechanism that will further reduce the weight of his craft.

This might sound insignificant but every little count in human-powered motion. Pilots either lose weight or find a lighter replacement for the main event to achieve longer inflight time. So, even these tiny adjustments matter.

Rousson is currently looking for funding partners for this project. So, if you are also inspired by human-powered flight, why not support the Aeroceanaut looking to break a record?

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