Al Marsh

Human-powered helicopter has 2nd crash

August 27, 2012 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

UPDATE: Saturday the human-pedaled helicopter named Gamera II after a sic-fi monster turtle (like the regular-sized school mascot) flew again after repairs from an earlier crash. It crashed a second time. See that crash here. The  good news, after reporting no one was injured, is that it rose to 9 feet, just inches from where it needs to be to win a $250,000 Sikorsky prize. It can stay aloft more than a minute, and within an 11.7-ft circle, and reach above nine feet. But it must do all those things on one flight–and not crash–to win. For now the U. of Md. kids have gone back to class–back to the school routine–and back to the drawing boards to make changes to the heavily damaged Gamera II. Months from now you will hear from them again, unless the kids at the University of Toronto get their similar helo flying more than a few inches high and for longer than 14 seconds.

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).

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