A team from the University of Maryland – headed by William Staruk – is entering the AHS Sikorsky Prize, which aims to award $250 000 (about R2,3 million) for the first successful controlled flight of a human-powered helicopter.
A one-minute hovering time, a momentary achievement of 3 metres altitude, and controlling the vehicle within a constrained box – all in the same flight – is required to win the prize.
The most recent iteration of their craft, named Gamera II XR, has four carbon-fibre trusses that connect four double-bladed rotors to a centrally suspended pilot’s seat. The students have been working on versions of the craft since 2008 and have already logged flight times in excess of 70 seconds and altitudes of more than 2,1 metres.
This video shows Gamera II achieving its highest-ever altitude. New pilot Henry Enerson climbed to 9,4 feet (2,87 m), measured by telemetry from a sonar altimeter.
Upon descent a joint which had been repaired after a previous crash, failed. The structure arm failed causing the helicopter to fall from an altitude of a few feet. No one was injured during the crash.
The team’s biggest threat is the Canadian crew – headed by Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson – who might just nab the purse first. Find out about their Atlas human-powered aircraft…
Read more about the contest and the teams in PM’s May 2013 issue – on sale 22 April.