Earlier this month we reported that a group of students from the University of Maryland broke the national record for the longest human-powered flight while simultaneously setting the world record for the longest human-powered flight by a woman. Now, the team’s Gamera II aircraft has broken another world record – for the highest altitude reached by a human-powered helicopter
The team reported that new freshman pilot Henry Enerson has powered the gigantic four-rotor aircraft to a record eight feet. This is the highest altitude ever achieved by a human-powered helicopter, and it was set during a controlled 25 second flight.
The current record for the longest flight was achieved earlier in the month by biology student Judy Wexler, who stayed aloft for an impressive 49.9 seconds. The Gamera II seats a human pilot in the center of its X-shaped frame. At the end of each 60 foot arm is a 42-foot rotor, which is powered by the pilot via hand and foot pedals to force the craft into the air. As it is made from balsa wood, foam, mylar and carbon fiber, the Gamera II only weighs 210 pounds.
It’s great news for the team, which is shattering records all over the place – they’re now planning to pilot their craft to win the Sikorsky Prize. The $250,000 award challenges a human-powered craft to reach a 10 foot altitude and maintain it for one whole minute. Since the competition was launched in 1980, no one has won it. However with their recent success, things are looking good for the Maryland team.