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Human-Powered Helicopter Team Sets New Records For Altitude and Flight Duration 59

Posted by timothy
from the up-in-the-air-junior-birdmen dept.
First time accepted submitter daltec writes "The $250,000 American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize, unclaimed since 1980, is now within Gamera II's reach. On Thursday, the University of Maryland's Clark School of Engineering team unofficially satisfied two of the three American Helicopter Society Sikorsky Prize requirements. The giant craft flew for 65 seconds, stayed within a 10 square meter area and hovered at two feet of altitude. New unofficial U.S. and world flight duration records were also set. The team expects to make their next attempt Saturday." That's today!
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Human-Powered Helicopter Team Sets New Records For Altitude and Flight Duration

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not in Australia. It's yesterday.

  • by darkfeline (1890882) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @01:21PM (#41200329)
    Not gonna lie, first thought was "Oh, so we can make biofuels from people now?"
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The requirement they accomplished is a 10 meter square, not 10 square meters.

    • "The requirement they accomplished is a 10 meter square, not 10 square meters."

      I was going to say... I've seen pictures of it and the helicopter itself is bigger than 10 square meters, so I did not see how it could fulfill this requirement.

      A 10 meter square makes much more sense.

      • I was going to say... I've seen pictures of it and the helicopter itself is bigger than 10 square meters, so I did not see how it could fulfill this requirement.

        Well, the helicopter itself is 114 feet across, so it doesn't even fit in a 10 metre square area either. Fortunately, the rules say that a reference point on the frame is used to determine whether the helicopter stayed in the square area, so the size of the helicopter doesn't really matter.

  • by daltec (674408) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @01:24PM (#41200353)
    The aircraft was damaged Thursday evening after another attempt at altitude. The team has repaired the craft though and resumed testing just a few minutes ago [twitter.com]. The flights are taking place at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, MD 20785, if you want to see their latest attempts!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 01, 2012 @01:25PM (#41200359)

    They need to hire Lance Armstrong. I doubt they can ban him from peddling on this.

    • Looking at their stats [umd.edu] their pilots can produce about 6W/kg for 2 minutes with the aid of those handcranks. That's not particularly impressive, to be honest. Wander down to a club cycling race and you'll find plenty of guys that can do better than that. If the point of the exercise was purely to break the record, the assistance of an elite athlete or two would make the job a whole lot easier.
  • all i could think of was politicians flying for years, within a narrow ideological area, and hovering at the highest echelons of power, propelled aloft by nothing but hot air

  • I was imagining 25 people pedaling their asses off and lifting a substantial amount over the ground.
  • Hovering is much easier than flying, I don't think a human-powered helicopter can ever fly.

    • For a helicopter - hovering is almost as hard as flying.
      If you increase the rotor thrust by 10%, and tilt it, you end up going sideways at a considerable speed.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        But this contraption only hovers a meter above ground, making tremendous use of the ground effect.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Like many things, its complicated, most especially with a helicopter. When a helicopter is hovering close to the ground you have ground effect lift. Basically the air pushed down by the main rotor reflects off the ground and comes back up, you need less power to just sit there than if you were higher up and just sitting there. When a helicopter is moving horizontally it has translational lift. The rotors are not only pushing air down but are also acting like a normal wing and getting lift from the air comin

    • First of all, hovering is flying.

      I don't know about "easier", whatever that means, but actually hovering in a helicopter OGE (out of ground effect) takes considerably more power than cruising in forward flight.

      Since this was an extreme case of IN ground effect, color me academically impressed but realistically the feat is completely void of any application.

      • by plover (150551) *

        realistically the feat is completely void of any application.

        Void of a "human pedal-powered helicopter" application is not the same as void of "any" application. Even if no practical human flight comes from it, challenges that foster experiments like these can drive new materials application and development. Perhaps someone figured out how to make a lighter weight carbon fiber tube as a result, or a new adhesive, or even a more efficient motor-generator technology, all in an attempt to gain just that little bit more lift. Or maybe someone figured out a new light w

  • Keeping your craft within a constrained area? Not hard.

    Heck, getting a pedal powered craft off the ground isn't that hard. (No really, you can make a pedal powered hovercraft in a weekend. It will only lift you a centimeter, but again, getting off the ground is not that hard.)

    But getting 9 feet in the air? That is seriously hard, and no craft I've seen has gotten close. Every single one has used ground effect for their lift, which is why they're all stuck around 18-24" . That's a far cry for supporting your

    • by tukang (1209392)

      But getting 9 feet in the air? That is seriously hard, and no craft I've seen has gotten close.

      If you can't be bothered to RTFA then at least WTFV, it shows their craft getting up 8 feet in the air.

  • "Sadly, after the record setting attempt, the human's heart exploded."
  • I don't think they qualify either way, seeing how the craft is 34 meters from wingtip to wingtip.

    Not that I could've built this or anything, just saying it doesn't fit in the box it has to stay inside.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      34 m in diameter... so the area in m^2 would be...
      (34/2)^2*pi ... 289*3.14.. - or about 900 m^2.

      Yes, a BIT more than 100 m^2, that.

      But perhaps they only count the fuselage?

      • by daltec (674408)
        They use the center of the aircraft -- the pilot's position -- as the origin or reference. As long as the reference does not drift beyond the 10 sq meter box, they are good.
        • by arth1 (260657)

          They use the center of the aircraft -- the pilot's position -- as the origin or reference.

          Not necessarily the centre:

          "4.4.3 A reference point on the non-rotating part of the machine will be established as a means whereby the observers can judge that the machine stayed within the confines of the 10-meter square."

          My guess is that a corner would be easier to judge by.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Rules here [vtol.org]

        It appears that the 10-meter square is a leeway area, meaning that the craft must not move more than 5 m from the starting point in the cardinal directions, or more than 7.07 m in the 45 degree diagonal directions.
        Why not make it simpler with a circular leeway area? No idea.

        The funniest thing I saw was this rule:
        "4.1.2 The machine shall be a rotary wing configuration capable of vertical takeoff and landing in still air, and at least one member of the crew shall be non-rotating. "

  • by Bryansix (761547) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @02:27PM (#41200657) Homepage
  • They are not the only ones [thestar.com].

  • by e**(i pi)-1 (462311) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @03:01PM (#41200853) Homepage Journal
    Here is a video from an attempt with crash https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmea3odVgDE# [youtube.com]! it seems repaired.
    • by daltec (674408)
      It was indeed repaired, and they are preparing to try again for altitude, even now. That is what did them in Thursday, so fingers crossed!
  • A) that is pretty fucking cool.  not what i expected at all.

    B) I love the idea that if you stop pedaling you die!  'course they're pussing out staying just above the ground..."test" indeed.
  • Well, the craft suffered another malfunction, this time in flight. It appeared that nothing touched the ground or hit anything, it just broke in mid-flight. Nobody was hurt, and it appears that a new record for height was reached, as the last flight unofficially broke nine feet. More info on the team's twitter feed [twitter.com].
  • Pretty awesome, looks like they actually have a shot at the prize. However, major props have to go to Nihon University YURI I (1994), http://www.humanpoweredhelicopters.org/yuri1/index.htm [humanpower...opters.org], from which the GAMERA design is directly based. Big improvements with power to weight ratio by adding the hand crank and carbon fiber materials though.
  • My favorite unusual aerodynamic effect on rotary wing aircraft is called "retreating blade stall"- the faster the rotor disk moves in forward flight, the slower the retreating blade passes through the air, eventually resulting in significant reduction in lift that can't be compensated for by angle of attack. Only way out is to slow down. http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2012/01/high-speed-helicopters-come-of-age// [airspacemag.com]. Somewhat off topic but interesting.
  • Classic [thingsmagazine.net], even.

  • Not relevant to helicopter article. Just a reminder.

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