On July 13, the students on the Gamera human-powered helicopter team from the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering completed their scheduled summer flight session with a new unofficial flight duration of 12.4 seconds. If verified by the National Aeronautic Association, this new time will shatter the team's previous 4.2-second U.S. national record set in May.
Between the May flights and yesterday's, the students enhanced Gamera's cockpit and transmission and added LEDs to its landing gear that turn on when the vehicle is off the ground. Judy Wexler, the biology student who piloted the record-setting flight in May, was also on board in the most recent session.
"Our students demonstrate the combination of technical expertise and determination to succeed that will bring continued technological progress to our nation and our world," stated Clark School Dean Darryll Pines. "During these flight tests they faced formidable obstacles when Gamera suffered its first significant structural problems, but they worked through the night to repair these and the next day achieved our best flights. Their spirit fills me with pride."
The team plans further flights in the fall to move closer to winning the Sikorsky Prize, established by the American Helicopter Society in 1980. The prize requires a flight of one minute, during which the vehicle attains an altitude of three meters at some point and remains within a 10 square meter area. No team has yet come close to winning the prize, now valued at $250,000.