Back in May we introduced you to a group of students from the University of Maryland who designed an amazing human-powered helicopter call the Gamera. The team’s ultimate goal is to win the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize, and while they have yet to achieve that, their path to the prize is now littered with several broken records. Just yesterday, they announced that pilot and biology student Judy Wexler broke the national record for longest human-powered flight while simultaneously setting the world record for the longest human-powered flight by a woman.
On July 12, Wexler powered the Gamera for a full 12 seconds. The previous national record was only four seconds, which the Gamera set earlier this year. Just a day before Wexler broke the record, the helicopter made a crash landing and the engineering team spent all night repairing the machine.
The Gamera helicopter takes the form of a giant X, with the human pilot seated in the center. Each of the structure’s arms are 60 feet long. Attached to the end of each arm is a 42-foot rotor, which will turn to lift the aircraft off the ground. The pilot will manually powers the hand and foot pedals to force Gamera into flight. Constructed from balsa wood, foam, mylar and carbon fiber, the machine itself weighs in at only 210 pounds.
Professor Inderjit Chopra says the helicopter is continuously begin modified and improved, and the team expects to do another test flight within the next six months. To win the Sikorsky Prize, which is given by the American Helicopter Society, a human-powered helicopter must fly for at least thirty seconds, hover at least three meters above ground, and not drift outside a ten-meter square. Think they can do it?
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