A team of students from the University of Maryland has created an incredible pedal-powered helicopter in an attempt to win the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize this Wednesday. If all goes as planned, the human-powered flying machine (dubbed Gamera) will successfully hover above the ground for a full 60 seconds!
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 use their strength to power 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. The pilot will be student Judy Wexler, who stands to set the record for the first female to successfully drive a human-powered helicopter. They’re also gunning for the Sikorsky Prize, which challenges a human-powered flying machine to hover for a full 60 seconds at a height of three meters within a 10 meter area from the lift off point.
After two years of working on Gamera, the team hopes that Wednesday’s test flight will qualify them for the American Helicopter Society-sponsored prize. Only one other team, the Clark School, has made a (failed) attempt. If the University of Maryland Team wins the prize, it will be the first time since the Sikorsky Prize’s inception in 1980.