Students Hunt Unclaimed $250K Helicopter Prize

Meet “Gamera,” the University of Maryland’s new human-powered helicopter.

Constructed by engineering students in a bid to win the American Helicopter Society’s $250,000 Sikorsky Prize, Gamera boasts two 13-meter-wide rotor blades powered entirely by pedals operated by a human pilot. Even more impressively, the entire contraption barely tops 200lbs, including pilot Judy Wexler.

Though the students have been so far unable to claim the Sikorsky Prize, a May 12 launch attempt (see above) in which Gamera hovered “several inches off the floor for about four seconds” proves the validity of their design.

If they hope to claim the $250,000 windfall however, the Gamera team has a long way to go. According to American Helicopter Society criteria, a winning vehicle must maintain flight under its own power for a full minute while remaining within a 10 square meter area. It must also demonstrate the ability to climb to an altitude of 3 meters.

Since its creation in 1980, no one has successfully claimed the Sikorsky Prize. The most impressive entry to date is 1994’s “Yuri 1,” a vehicle conceived by Japan’s Nihon Aero Student Group, which managed to float 0.2 meters above the ground for nearly 20 seconds.

Though confident in their engineering prowess, Gamera’s creators are stymied by a lack of viable testing space for their creation. Unpredictable wind conditions make testing the ‘copter outdoors an impossibility, so until a hangar or especially large warehouse can be located, Gamera remains grounded.

Source: University of Maryland School of Engineering, via New Scientist

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