Want to see history made in the blink of an eye? About two weeks ago we wrote about Gamera, the University of Maryland’s human-powered helicopter that is chasing after the Sikorsky Prize, a $250,000 purse offered to anyone who can meet a set of ambitious flight criteria with a human-powered helicopter. Gamera isn’t there yet, but with pilot Judy Wexler pounding away at the pedals the team did hover for about four seconds, setting a world record for the first woman to achieve human-powered helicopter flight.
The official statistics on the flight are still pending from the National Aeronautics Association (and as such the record is still unofficial), but it appears the helicopter got off the gymnasium floor for about four seconds while putting 3-5 inches between its rotors and the floor. That’s not too shabby for an aircraft that weighs 200 pounds including the pilot. But as it pertains to the Sikorsky Prize, the team still has a ways to go. The quarter-million is reserved for the first helicopter that stays aloft for 60 seconds and reaches an altitude of ten feet.
But compared to other human-powered helicopters, just getting off the ground is extremely significant. The current world record, set by a Japanese team at the Nihon Aero Student Group in 1994, flew for just under 20 seconds and peaked at 8 inches above the ground. A tweak here, a tightening of the screws there, and Gamera may be on its way to topping the all-time flight record.
See history made below. The actual flight begins right around the 3:00 mark.