UPDATE: The University of Maryland’s Gamera II human-powered helicopter crashed during a descent Aug. 30, when a blade bumped into a student. There were no injuries. The human-powered helicopter had reached 8.6 feet. To win a Sikorsky $250,000 prize it must stay aloft for 60 seconds (it has done that in a test flight), remain within an 11.7-foot circle (it achieved that, too, on another test flight), and climb to 9.8 feet. It must do all three on one flight, and that has not been accomplished. Here is the crash video. Gamera II has in the past routinely drifted sideways during descent. There are simultaneous attempts by Canadian students at a school in Toronto to win the Sikorsky prize. For a roundup of all attempts nationwide, see this Popular Mechanics article.
UPDATE! In preparation for the August 30 trial, the students on August 28 made an unofficial flight for 65 seconds–long enough to meet one of the Sikorsky requirements–and met a second requirement by staying within an 11.7-foot diameter circle. That’s two out of three requirements. The craft climbed to EIGHT feet (see the exciting video of that here), but if it should make it to 9.8 feet they will have themselves a $250,000 prize.
In a larger indoor arena, with a few unspecified modifications, the University of Maryland’s Gamera II human-powered helicopter will make a second attempt at the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize this month. Engineering students confirmed a record of nearly 50 seconds on August 15. But the bigger prize is so close they can smell, taste, or feel it–take your pick. To win, the bicyclist sitting at the center of the 114-foot contraption must stay aloft for 60 seconds, achieve a height of 9.8 feet, and stay inside a circle that is only 11.7 feet in diameter. This time around, the students have a real shot at the 60-second mark, if not the height and navigation marks. The move to the bigger arena means they won’t constantly crash into walls as happened previously. The attempt will be August 30. The University of Maryland mascot is the Terrapin turtle with the slogan, “Fear the Turtle.” No one said anything about” terrible.” Still, the Terrapin is one tough dude. It can live in fresh or brackish water–Terrapin don’t care (to borrow a slightly cleaned-up phrase from the YouTube video about a honey badger that faces down a rattlesnake and shows blissful disregard for the reptile’s venom).