Aircraft

Gamera II team smashes previous best human-powered helicopter flight time

Gamera II pilot Kyle Gluesenkamp has smashed last year's human-powered helicopter flight time of 11.4 seconds by a considerable margin, and now begins the anxious wait while the NAA validates his new record of 50 seconds
Gamera II pilot Kyle Gluesenkamp has smashed last year's human-powered helicopter flight time of 11.4 seconds by a considerable margin, and now begins the anxious wait while the NAA validates his new record of 50 seconds
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First day of record attempts and pilot Colin Gore notches up a flight time of 35 seconds
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First day of record attempts and pilot Colin Gore notches up a flight time of 35 seconds
Inside Reckord Amory, Colin Gore on an early record-breaking flight with Gamera II
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Inside Reckord Amory, Colin Gore on an early record-breaking flight with Gamera II
Problems with drift lead to hasty repairs by the 40-strong Gamera II team
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Problems with drift lead to hasty repairs by the 40-strong Gamera II team
The American Helicopter Society's President dropped in to see Gamera II in action
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The American Helicopter Society's President dropped in to see Gamera II in action
Pilot Colin Gore warms up before another record attempt
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Pilot Colin Gore warms up before another record attempt
Amateur bike racer and assistant research scientist in the University of Maryland Department of Astronomy Dennis Bodewits takes flight in Gamera II
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Amateur bike racer and assistant research scientist in the University of Maryland Department of Astronomy Dennis Bodewits takes flight in Gamera II
Gamera II pilot Kyle Gluesenkamp has smashed last year's human-powered helicopter flight time of 11.4 seconds by a considerable margin, and now begins the anxious wait while the NAA validates his new record of 50 seconds
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Gamera II pilot Kyle Gluesenkamp has smashed last year's human-powered helicopter flight time of 11.4 seconds by a considerable margin, and now begins the anxious wait while the NAA validates his new record of 50 seconds
The Gamera II team and NAA judge Kris Maynard review the video footage
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The Gamera II team and NAA judge Kris Maynard review the video footage
Gamera II awaits the next valiant attempt to break the 60 second barrier
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Gamera II awaits the next valiant attempt to break the 60 second barrier

For over 30 years, the US$250,000 cash prize for the American Helicopter Society's Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize has looked decidedly secure, but Gamera II has changed all that. Last week, Clark School of Engineering team pilots came so close to breaking one of the competition's major milestones that they could virtually smell it. Ph.D. candidate from Kyle Gluesenkamp from the School's mechanical engineering department, hand-cranking and pedaling like his life depended on it, managed to keep the huge quad-rotor craft aloft for 50 seconds, an impressive new world record that's currently awaiting validation by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA).

The University of Maryland's Gamera team had high expectations from the lighter, more efficient refinement of the original human-powered helicopter that pilot Judy Wexler powered into the record books last year. Thanks to an all-male team this year, her 11.4 second flight record as the longest undertaken by a female pilot was never going to be under threat from these latest strides towards claiming the elusive Sikorsky prize, but the 40-strong Gamera II team were confident that much better times would be achieved. A 20-second test flight on Sunday June 17 only served to fan the flames of hope.

Inside Reckord Amory, Colin Gore on an early record-breaking flight with Gamera II
Inside Reckord Amory, Colin Gore on an early record-breaking flight with Gamera II

On the first day of flying under the watchful gaze of NAA judge Kris Maynard, all the hard work paid off when pilot Colin Gore notched up a pretty impressive 35 seconds, but it was colleague Gluesenkamp who took the record with a flight time of 50 seconds the next day. In spite of valiant efforts by all three pilots, the magic minute was not reached by the time Maynard packed away all the video footage for close scrutiny by NAA officials, who will hopefully validate the new record time for human-powered helicopter flight in the coming weeks.

The three days of official record attempts were not without a fair amount of off-screen drama, including a blade getting damaged as it hit the wall, repeated problems with drift and the nylon/steel chain snapping. Now the team will work on further refinements to get Gamera II to an altitude of three meters (9.84 feet) above the ground during a flight, before returning to the University's Reckord Armory in August to make further record attempts.

Gamera II HPH Previous World Record: 50 seconds

Source: Clark School of Engineering

31 comments
Kim Holder
Looking at the pedalling setup, i think they could make it past 1 minute just by positioning the cranks for more efficient engagement of large muscle groups, especially the hand crank. And adding toe clips. And did the pilot load up properly on caffeine first? Cuz that was just so close it hurts.
yinfu99
I may have my science wrong, but with a given blade shape, it is the speed of the air over the blades that provides more lift/thrust. so the faster you can get the air moving the greater the thrust. That being the case, why couldn't you have the pedal gears linked to smaller gear ratio, so when it gets to the blades(which could be a lot smaller and closer), with a gear-size step-down, they would be spinning significantly faster, generating more air flow. Additionally, if it was shunted through cone nozzles, it would concentrate the thrust even more. Have a few of these, perhaps 6 for lift and direction control, a gyro for stability, this would create a stable platform, easier to maneuver, much lighter, etc...
Alan Belardinelli
Though I respect the effort, I think that the engineering students should be going over to the closest college with a good wrestling program and finding the lightest, strongest monkey they can. Tell him the bet is a six pack and keep $249,995 for themselves...
Sarfraz Ahmad
The helicopter is powered by a single person pedaling with hands and feet, but still requires "spotters" to keep it under control for the duration of the 40 second flight. This video sums it up nicely http://su.pr/2mxQmM
Wheels
With any human powered flying machine, you look first for efficiency, not simply greater thrust. A large propeller rotating slowly is more efficient than the a small propellor rotating rapidly. Secondly, it appears that the blades are mounted low to the ground so that they can operate in ground effect, where more thrust will be produced than at the same RPM but higher altitude (say 6 meters). It looks like being a long hard road from the altitudes so far achieved (0.3M?) to 6 M or more.
Kumi Alexander
That's not flight. It didn't even leave ground-effect. Also, the pedal setup is pathetic.
habakak
Lots of room for improvement here. These kids obviously knows nothing about cycling. And that's a big part of this project. The pedaling position is EXTREMELY INEFFICIENT. It's like those slow bikes old people ride. Recumbments. Also, these are college geeks so they have no fitness as to speak of. Get a cyclist from the college team to hammer this thing (dunno if the rules allows for this). Otherwise just get someone to train semi-seriously for 6 weeks. And also use clipless pedals for goodness sake (you can pull and push on the pedals that way). They'll break through the 1 minute barrier like nothing.
steveraxx
Fantastic and inspiring guys, keep up the great work!
jerryd
Calling this ground effect machine a helicopter is stretching it quite a bit. It'd have to go 3x's the rotor dia in height and still ground effct would be 20% of lift or so. Here 90% of lift comes from GE.
Jay Finke
looks like it needs the ground effect big time to work.