Human Powered Helicopter Breaks Flight RecordWe've reported on the Sikorsky prize before, but this time there is a team getting remarkably close to winning it. Gamera II, the second iteration of a design from the University of Maryland, has managed to stay airborne for a remarkable 50 seconds using only human pedal power.
The challenge of the Sikorsky prize is this: get a human-powered helicopter 3 meters up in the air and keep it there for 50 seconds. So far no teams have managed to get a craft to lift 3 meters off the ground, and very few have managed a flight time of longer than a few seconds. The craft must also be somewhat maneuverable, as it must stay within a 10 meter square for the entire duration. The previous record for the Sikorsky prize, for comparison, was 11 seconds. The Gamera II only managed to get a few inches off the ground, but this is a great first step for the vehicle.
The Gamera II utilizes both foot pedal power and arm pedal power, boosting how much power a human can pump out from the first Gamera, which only used feet. The craft also weighs only 71 pounds, making it 30 pounds lighter than the first Gamera. That is despite being 105 feet across and having four rotors 42 feet long each.
The Gamera team has been kind enough to document the attempt on video, meaning you can watch the triumph below. Sure, they still aren't too close to winning the challenge (the craft is still taking advantage of the ground effect at this height, so every inch will be harder to lift than the last) but the end is in sight.
The Sikorsky prize has seen a lot of activity recently. New teams are popping up every month, and there have been two Kickstarter campaigns dedicated to winning the $250,000 in prize money. We might have a winner within the year.