Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Human powered helicopter, experienced cyclists required...

Now that's a gadget!! Hovering for 11.4 seconds has secured a place in the record books for the Gamera team, and for its pilot Judy Wexler, who made the longest human-powered flight by a female U.S. pilot

For the last two years, a team of 50 graduate and undergraduate students from the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center at the University of Maryland's Department of Aerospace Engineering has been designing, building and tweaking a lightweight, four-rotor helicopter that's powered by the human pilot suspended at its center. The hope is to build a craft capable of walking away with the American Helicopter Society's Sikorsky Prize of US$250,000.

The rules of this challenge - named in honor of helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky - state that the craft should get all of its power from the human pilot and that it should thus be capable of hovering for 60 seconds within a 10-meter (32.8-foot) square area. During this time, the lowest part of the machine must reach an altitude of 3 meters (9.84 feet) above the ground - if only momentarily. As of August 2011, no-one has claimed the prize.  Time to get the Meccano out & start building!

The lightweight pilots used throughout the project have also been experienced cyclists, and were free to design their own training regimes based on their specialist knowledge. The team "became aware through our testing that a more focused training plan that optimized for muscular endurance rather than cardiovascular endurance, and one which trained the motion that is unique to Gamera, would produce even better results," said Schmaus. "Moving forward we are working with specialists in Biomechanics to develop a targeted training plan." 

However, the team still think they're a long way off the Sikorsky Prize's target of 60 seconds flight, so there's still a chance for you budding designers out there to nip in & grab yourself a few dollars! :0)

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