A team of University of Maryland engineering students have build a human-powered helicopter that flew for 50 seconds, getting close to the 60 seconds required to win the $250,000 Igor Sikorsky Prize.
A human-powered helicopter is a helicopter designed to carry at least one person but limited to using only what power is provided by the person(s) on board, usually by pedaling. The Sikorsky Prize is awarded to the first entry to reach an altitude of 3 metres (10 feet) during a flight lasting at least 60 seconds, while remaining within a 10-metre (32.8 ft) square.
Among the many inventions found in the great Italian Renaissance’ master Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbook was his famous drawing of a human-powered helicopter. After many failed attempts have been made to make da Vinci’s drawing a reality, the team from the University of Maryland may have got close to it. They have recently, unofficially achieved the new record.
This feat makes the students one of only three teams to have ever even achieved any flight in a human-powered helicopter at all.
The helicopter is named “Gamera II” are powered by rotors which are moved by simple human leg-power, as the pilot pushes, bicycle-like, against pedals which transfer motion to the broad but lightweight blades.
The team noted that, unlike an airplane, which can make use of its forward motion to help generate lift, a helicopter has to lift itself directly into the air against gravity.
The team, composed of 35 University of Maryland engineering students, where Kyle Gluesenkamp is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland's Clark School's mechanical engineering department. The other pilots were Colin Gore, Ph.D. candidate in the Clark School's materials science and engineering department, and Denis Bodewits, assistant research scientist in the University of Maryland Department of Astronomy.
For now, the team is waiting for verification from the National Aeronautic Association of their latest flight, which will break their own previous world record of 11.4 seconds made last summer with Gamera I, a 106-pound predecessor to the Gamera II. The Gamera II, which uses about $150,000 worth of materials, has four 43-foot rotors that rotate at about 20 revolutions per minute.