Science

Human-Powered Helicopter Takes Flight

Last year, a team from the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland created a human-powered helicopter called Gamera and managed to get it off the ground for 11 seconds. Not bad. But yesterday, the Gamera 2 managed to stay airborne for a solid 50 seconds, smashing the world record. It looks exhausting.

The team is competing for the coveted Sikorsky Prize. To win, a human-powered craft must get off the ground, hover for at least one minute and reach a minimum altitude of three metres. These guys are definitely getting close on the time requirement, but it looks like they’ve still got a ways to go before they reach that 3m mark. The winner of the Sikorsky Prize gets $US250,000. It was announced 11 years ago and has never been claimed.

Last year’s Gamera was pretty amazing, but the Gamera II has been improved in many ways. It’s 32m across, and each of the four rotors are 13m long. For all that, it weighs only 32kg, which is 14kg lighter than last year’s model. Thank you, carbon fibre. The engine is a single human who uses both foot and hand pedals (last year’s was foot pedals only).

They are planning on making more attempts today, so who knows, we may see that prize claimed before the sun goes down. [Wired]


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