The first human-powered helicopter (the Gamera) takes flight

Earlier this month, a team of 52 graduate students from the University of Maryland were able to get the first human-powered helicopter called the Gamera off the ground. In the video of the flight, it appears the helicopter achieved liftoff of roughly 3 to 5 inches and a hover time of 4 seconds – still shorter than the Wright Brothers’ historical flight but at least there was liftoff. However, the flight will still need to be confirmed by the National Aeronautics Association and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.

The project is part of an effort to set an aviation ‘first’ along with a world record plus win the $ 250 000 Sikorsky Challenge.


The helicopter itself was constructed of light weight materials such as balsa wood, carbon fiber, foam and mylar and has a backbone consisting of a massive X frame where each crossbar measures 18 meter or 60 feet. Four huge rotors measuring 12.6 meters or 42 feet long then sit at the ends of the crossbars. The entire contraction takes ups a about a third of a football field but it only weighs roughly 95 kilograms or 210 pounds (not counting the weight of the pilot). The pilot (in this case, 24 year old graduate student Judy Wexler) sits in the middle and peddles HARD to fly the thing.

To watch the flight, check out this video but do note that the actual flight comes at about the three minute mark.

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