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SCOTTS VALLEY — Neal Saiki, the co-founder of Zero Motorcycles, will be leaving his operational duties at the company to pursue his dream of designing and building the first human-powered helicopter, the company announced Tuesday.
Saiki will be re-entering the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition, which offers a $250,000 prize to the first designers who can build a machine that reaches a height of 3 meters a little over 9 feet and hovers for 60 seconds, a feat that has eluded numerous entrants since the competition was launched in 1980.
Saiki made his first attempt at the prize — then just $20,000 — in 1989 along with a team of aeronautical engineering students at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo. Back then, the machine earned the first official record when it flew 8 inches off the ground for a little over seven seconds. Currently the record is held by a Japanese professor whose machine was airborne at 0.2 meters for nearly 20 seconds. This time around, Zero Motorcycles has signed on to be a corporate sponsor for the venture.
Saiki, with his wife, Lisa, co-founded Zero Motorcycles, which designs and sells electric-powered motorcycles. From their modest Scotts Valley garage beginnings in 2006, the company has grown to 60 employees and has an international presence. In the past year, the company has added several industry veterans to its management team and announced plans to build a manufacturing facility and new headquarters in Santa Cruz.
“Neal had the vision, the talent and the courage to launch an electric motorcycle company before there really was an electric motorcycle industry or even a market,” said Aflalo Guimarães, managing director of The Invus Group, Zero’s largest investor and a current board member of the company. “We are grateful to Neal and will continue to rely on his vision and counsel.”
Saiki said the past five years at Zero have been fun, exciting and a lot of hard work.
“At this point I think it is well-established,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of the team we’ve assembled to carry Zero into the future.”
This article appeared here.