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Gamera II Human Powered Helicopter Sets New Record

About a year ago, I wrote about a project at the University of Maryland, Gamera Human Powered Helicopter. They built a helicopter that was powered entirely by its pilot, Judy Wexler. She managed to keep in the air for 10.8 seconds. That may not seem like very long, but it was only the third human powered helicopter in history to even make it off the ground (I discussed the challenges of human powered flight in that previous entry, so there's no need to go over it again here). Judy was also the first female to power such a vehicle.

Gamera II

Gamera II

Now, the team from UMD is back with an improved aircraft, Gamera II. At only 71 lbs empty, it's 35 lbs lighter than the first Gamera. The informational handout from the official website also claims that the aircraft only requires 0.62 HP to hover, a significant improvement over the 1.03 HP for the previous machine (both calculations with 135 lb pilot).

So what have these improvements allowed? A flight time of 50 seconds with Kyle Gluesenkamp at the cranks. That's not quite the full minute required for the Sikorsky prize, but it's a big improvement over the previous record of 24 seconds set by the Nihon Aero Student Group's Yuri I. And the website says that they plan more flights in August, so they might yet hit the minute mark.

Here's a video of the record setting flight:

I found a certain chart from their informational handout to be very interesting. Here's the chart.

Gamera Comparison Chart

Of course, the top is interesting to see how much they've improved with this new design. But look at the bottom part, where it compares Gamera II to some other aircraft. It has more disk area than a CH-53E, which has a max takeoff weight of 73,500 lb (per Wikipedia). It's comparable in dimensions to a Boeing 737, which has a max takeoff weight of between 111,000 lbs and 187,700 lbs, depending on the model (again, per Wikipedia). It really goes to show just how hard it is to fly, and just how much power we can get out of the small powerplants we install on aircraft.

So once again, congratulations to the Maryland team, and best of luck in the coming months.

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