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Transportation Science Idle

Gamera II Team Smashes Previous Best Human-Powered Helicopter Flight Time 118

Zothecula writes "For over 30 years, the $250,000 for the American Helicopter Society's Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize has looked decidedly secure, but Gamera II has changed all that. Last week, Clark School of Engineering team pilots came close to breaking one of the competition's major milestones. Ph.D. candidate from Kyle Gluesenkamp from the School's mechanical engineering department, hand-cranking and pedaling like his life depended on it, managed to keep the huge quad-rotor craft aloft for 50 seconds, an impressive new world record that's currently awaiting validation by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA)." We previously covered their attempt to break the record last May.

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Gamera II Team Smashes Previous Best Human-Powered Helicopter Flight Time

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  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @11:50AM (#40439571)

    The "flight" was a bit underwhelming. One question about the rules, though. Could you create something that would allow you to store your energy (e.g. spring winding) on top of direct power? Seems like that would help get you off the ground (maybe at the cost of too much weight?).

  • Awe-inspiring? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @11:58AM (#40439659)

    Until then, have a look at the following video of Gluesenkamp's awe-inspiring record flight

    I'm sorry, I didn't even realize he had lifted off the ground. Awe-inspiring isn't exactly the word I'd use.

  • Re:Holy crap! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @12:13PM (#40439861) Journal

    A somewhat more practical device could be a hydrid airship/helicopter. Keep it heavier than air, but use a hydrogen-filled balloon to counter most of the weight and cycle power to carry the rest. Unfortunately, it would still be large, but the helicopter part could be substantially smaller.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:22PM (#40440791)

    That's a good question. However, as an engineer, I feel obliged to point out that this exercise, while interesting, has absolutely zero practicality or usefulness. Even if you could reduce the helicopter's mass to zero, the amount of energy a human would have to expend to keep himself aloft is staggering. Obviously, a fit human can do it for a minute or three, an athlete like Lance Armstrong might be able to keep it up for 5-10, but that's it; after that, they'll be crashing.

    Not only that, this test isn't very realistic as far as helicopters are concerned: they're not far enough away from the ground. Close to the ground, you get the in-ground hover effect, which reduces the amount of power you need to stay aloft. Over 10 feet or so, you go into out-of-ground effect, and then your power requirements increase significantly. In-ground effect is only useful for taxiing to your runway or helipad; if you want to hover anywhere else, you're generally doing it out-of-ground. So even a fit human will have a much harder time keeping that up for long, even with a zero-mass machine. There's a reason birds have hollow bones, and why even hummingbirds (which hover rather than glide) have very limited flight durations, despite their tiny size and mass.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.