University of Maryland student engineers to test human-powered helicopter (w/ video)

May 5, 2011
University of Maryland student engineers to test human-powered helicopter (w/ video)

( -- In a step toward winning the Sikorsky Prize, a team of A. James Clark School of Engineering students will attempt for the first time to test-fly their human-powered helicopter, called Gamera.

Gamera has a rotor at each of the four ends of its X-shaped frame, with the pilot's module suspended at the middle. Each crossbar of the frame is 60 feet long, and each rotor is 42 feet in diameter.

Through the use of balsa, foam, mylar, and other lightweight materials, the entire vehicle weighs only 210 pounds, including the student pilot. All power comes from a combination of hand and foot pedaling.

If Gamera makes it off the ground, the team has the potential to capture a for human-powered helicopter flight with a female pilot on board.

A team of more than 50 graduate and undergraduate students is led by faculty advisors V.T. Nagaraj, Inderjit Chopra and Darryll Pines (dean of the Clark School). The pilot for the tests is University of Maryland life sciences graduate student Judy Wexler. The Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center in the Clark School is one of the nation's top rotorcraft research institutions.

The team has been working for two years to compete for the Sikorsky Prize, run by the American Helicopter Society (AHS). The Clark School team is the only team currently sanctioned by the AHS for making an official attempt. No team has succeeded since the was first offered in 1980.

The team will test the vehicle between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11.

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5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2011
Good luck!
not rated yet May 05, 2011
Human powered SPACE flight... Now, I'd pay good good money to see THAT...
5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2011
Human powered SPACE flight... Now, I'd pay good good money to see THAT...

Quite possible. Have a team of slaves, ehem, sailors to row/pedal mechanisms connected to a generator-batterry system to power ion drives...can't have enough power to lift off from Earth though.
5 / 5 (3) May 05, 2011
The video says the craft will weigh 140 lbs., the article says 210 lbs., including pilot. So where are they going to find a 70 lb. pilot? A 3rd grader? A 3'6"-tall aerobics instructor? (Drilling holes in the pilot to reduce weight doesn't work as well as one might think.)
5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2011
Just a thought. Human powered space flight is possible using dynamic fat rendering into fuel. You need a few obese individuals hooked up to a fully autonomous lypo suction system. Catalytic cracking can be used to convert the fat into an optimized fuel. The larger the individuals the greater the fuel to payload ratio.
1 / 5 (1) May 05, 2011
so, would this design have ANY informative value for designing hyper efficient radio controlled helicopters?
not rated yet May 06, 2011
I don't see this as anything more than an academic exercise for engineering students, something they can put in their CV. They're not developing anything new in the way of materials, just learning how to make the lightest structure that will fulfill the requirements. I don't even think they're doing it right; you'll notice that their airfoils have the same pitch throughout their length.

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