Human-powered helicopter breaks record with a four-second flight

by Mark R

It seems like human-powered flight is becoming more popular, with the flight of the ornithopter in September of last year, and now a flight of a human-powered helicopter.

What you see in the picture is Judy Wexler, and this is her in the Gamera, a flying machine created at the University of Maryland. She managed to keep it in the air for about 4 seconds with hand and foot pedals, which is a world record.

That might not seem like a long time, and it isn’t. In comparison, the Wright Brothers flyer stayed aloft for only 12 seconds. Like it or not, the history of human flight has been accomplished with baby steps. You can watch a video of it after the jump if you want to witness this recent history.

The Gamera, which is named after the Godzilla-like movie monster of the same name, is made of balsa, mylar, carbon fiber, and foam. With Wexler, the whole thing weighs in at 210 pounds.

In case you are wondering if there is a future for human-propelled flight, you should probably know that the American Helicopter Society’s Sikorsky Prize will give any person who can keep a human-powered helicopter hovering in the air for 60 seconds gets $250,000. Oh, and the human-powered helicopter has to stay within a 10-meter square space, and reach a 3 meter altitude. And by the way, this prize has been around for over 30 years. Someone has to get the money and break that record sometime.


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