The University of Maryland students established an unofficial world record for human-powered helicopter flight, hovering for 50 seconds and edging toward the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize offered by the American Helicopter Society. The rules for winning are straightforward, but difficult to achieve.
- Build a helicopter powered only by human means
- Lift off and achieve a hover time of 60 seconds
- Achieve a height of 3 meters sometime during the 60 second flight
- Stay within a 10 square meter area during the 60 second flight
As can be seen in last year’s record attempt, the altitude and area constraints are difficult, with little control over altitude other than adding power – already at a human maximum, and limited ability to stay within that imaginary box.
According to the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, “Gamera has a rotor at each of the four ends of its X-shaped frame, with the pilot’s module suspended at the middle. Each crossbar of the frame is 60 feet long, and each rotor is 42.6 feet in diameter. Yet, through the use of balsa, foam, mylar, carbon fiber and other lightweight materials, the entire vehicle weighs only 71 pounds…. All power comes from a combination of hand and foot pedaling, transmitted through chains, gears, and lightweight string to the rotors.”
Gamera I had a 107-110 pound weight limit for the pilot, but Gamera II allows for a 135-145 pilot/engine and perhaps Kyle Gluesenkamp, a slightly larger power source, helped make part of this year’s 50 seconds compared to the 11-second flight of Gamera I. More likely, though, improved design contributed to the current unofficial record, the 106-pound Gamera I having required 770 Watts (1.03 horsepower) to hover at two feet, while the lighter Gamera II can achieve the same on only 460 Watts (0.62 hp).
Congratulations to the team and to The Clark School’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and best wishes for their continued achievement.