A team of University of Maryland engineering students built a human-powered helicopter that flew for 50 seconds, getting close to the 60 seconds required to win the $250,000 Igor Sikorsky Prize.
A team of engineering students from the University of Maryland broke a new flight record in a human-powered aircraft. Pilot Kyle Gluesenkamp lifted his gymnasium-sized helicopter, Gamera II, about a foot off the ground for 50 seconds. Their record is still unofficial until the National Aeronautic Association rules on it.
For a helicopter to be considered "human powered," it must be powered only by direct human energy (no batteries or giant rubber bands allowed). Wired's Rhett Allain calculates that it took the furiously pedaling Gluesenkamp about 1,000 watts of power to get Gamera II off the ground. By comparison, elite cyclists can briefly generate up to 2,000 watts of power.
The Gamera II team discovered that adding hand cranks increased the power output up to 20 percent.