Engineers may have set record for human-powered helicopter flight (video)

26 Jun 2012

A team of 40 engineering students from University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering have carried out a human-powered helicopter flight that has lasted 50 seconds, which they are claiming has set a new unofficial world record for such a flight.

The team created the Gamera II, a refinement of their 2011 helicopter innovation, the Gamera I.

Weighing in at 71lbs, the Gamera II has a rotor at each of the four ends of its X-shaped frame, with the pilot’s module suspended in the middle.

The helicopter is powered by a combination of hand and foot pedalling that’s transmitted through chains, gears, and lightweight string to the rotors.

So, on 21 June, team member Kyle Gluesenkamp, a PhD student at Clark School’s mechanical engineering department, piloted the Gamera II.

The flight lasted 50 seconds and the team members are now aiming to refine their innovation, as they are eyeing up the Sikorsky Prize. Created by the American Helicopter Society, the Sikorsky Prize was named in honour of the pilot Igor Sikorsky.

Born in 1889 in Kiev in Russia, Igor Sikorsky was a pioneer around helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. He designed and flew the world’s first usable four-engine aircraft, the Russky Vityaz, also known as Le Grand, in 1913. Sikorsky arrived in New York in 1919 and In 1923 he set up the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corp.

To win the US$250,000 Sikorsky Prize, a team must build a vehicle that obtains all of its power from a human pilot to achieve a 60-second hover while remaining within a 10-metre square and momentarily reach a three-metre altitude.

So far no team has ever succeeded in meeting the Sikorsky Prize challenge.

Check out the video of the Gamera II here:


Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic