The National Aeronautic Association has certified that on July 13, 2011, the human-powered helicopter Gamera, designed and built by graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering and piloted by biology student Judy Wexler, achieved lift-off and hovered for 11.4 seconds, setting the new U.S. records for flight duration and flight duration by a female pilot.
The NAA has submitted information to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale to permit evaluation of the July flight for world records in the same categories. The NAA states that this process may take two to three months. The team's May flight is still being evaluated by the FAI.
"Competitions like the human-powered helicopter bring out the best in Clark School students and show that they are fully prepared to contribute to technological progress," stated Clark School Dean Darryll Pines. "The new record is exciting and meaningful, but the real accomplishment is the students' learning that they can successfully apply their skills in an incredibly challenging engineering problem."
The team is evaluating the current vehicle and the next steps towards competing for the Sikorsky Prize. The prize was established by the American Helicopter Society and requires an individual or team to build a helicopter powered only by human means that can lift off and achieve a hover time of 60 seconds and reach a height of 3 meters sometime during a 60-second flight while remaining in a 10 square-meter area.
"Through the development of Gamera we have learned many things about extreme ground effect aerodynamic design and also about lightweight structural design," said one of the team's student leaders, Joe Schmaus. "At this point we are combining these two knowledge bases to determine whether to go for another record-setting, but not prize-winning, flight with Gamera or put all our energy into designing a vehicle capable of the Sikorsky prize."
Gamera's first record-setting flight occurred on May 12, 2011, at approximately 5:30 p.m., in the auxiliary gym of the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park. For more information, visit http://www.agrc.umd.edu/gamera/index.html.
"Gamera" is the name of a giant flying turtle in Japanese science fiction movies, and was selected as the name for the Clark School vehicle because the University of Maryland's mascot is the diamondback terrapin and because the team wanted to give homage to the Nihon University team. Detailed information about the craft may be found at http://www.agrc.umd.edu/gamera/index.html.
About the Sikorsky Prize
The Sikorsky Prize was established by the National Helicopter Association to inspire teams and individuals to advance knowledge of helicopter flight and to honor helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky. The prize has never been awarded to date. For more information about the Sikorsky Prize, see http://www.agrc.umd.edu/gamera/sikorsky-prize.html.
About the Gamera Team
For more than two years, a team of 50 Clark School graduate and undergraduate students has worked on the design, construction, and testing of the Gamera human-powered helicopter. For the names of team members, see http://www.agrc.umd.edu/gamera/team.html