June 25, 2012
Human-Powered Helicopter Flight Record Smashed
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
Colin Gore, a PhD student in materials science at the University of Maryland, built the motor-less helicopter using carbon fiber.
The helicopter weighs only 71 pounds, and it stretches its four arms out at about the size of a basketball court.
When combining Gore's weight, the human-powered machine weighs a total of 210 pounds.
The helicopter is 102 feet across, and each of its four rotors are 42 feet long. The copter weighs 30 pounds less than last year's model did.
The pilot of the craft uses their hands and feet to rotate pedals, turning the rotors and ultimately lifting the helicopter off the ground.
The helicopter, called Gamera 2, was able to stay aloft in the air for 50 seconds, which beat out the previous world record.
Gamera 2 was able to reach an altitude of about 10 feet during the flight, and stay within the 107 square-feet area.
Gore and his team made previous attempts last week to fly the helicopter, including a 35-second flight on Wednesday and a 40-second flight on Thursday.
The team is going for the Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Competition from the American Helicopter Society prize, which would see that the winner gets $250,000.
The winner of the competition would have to build a helicopter that was able to stay aloft for at least 60 seconds, and reach an altitude of about 10 feet.
The previous flight record was set back in 1994 by a Japanese team, which flew a total of 19-seconds.
With Gamera-2's rotors spinning at just 20 revolutions per minute, less than one horsepower is needed in order to hover 2 feet above the ground.
Leonardo da Vinci is considered the first to have thought up the idea of a human-powered helicopter. However, Gamera-2 looks different than da Vinci's idea because of its four rotors.
Under da Vinci´s model, the propeller that lifts the aircraft off the ground is a screw-shape. Scientists believe da Vinci's model would not have been able to take flight if he actually built it.
Gore and his team is only one of three teams who have ever been able to achieve flight using a human-powered helicopter.