Amazing Human-Powered Helicopter Closes in on $250,000 Prize

A team of stu­dent engi­neers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land are clos­ing in on the Amer­i­can Heli­copter Soci­ety’s $250,000 Siko­rsky Prize, which has remained unclaimed for over thir­ty years. The require­ments of the prize sound sim­ple enough. The win­ner must build and demon­strate a human-pow­ered heli­copter that can lift off the ground ver­ti­cal­ly and hov­er for one minute, reach­ing a height of three meters (about 10 feet) with­out drift­ing from a 10-square-meter area. But as this video from the NPR “Radio Pic­tures” series explains, those para­me­ters test the lim­its of light-weight air­craft design. After four years of tri­al and error, the Mary­land team has sat­is­fied two of the three require­ments. In one recent flight they kept their heli­copter, the Gam­era II, in the air for a world-record 65 sec­onds while stay­ing with­in the required 10-meter area–but only reach­ing a height of two feet. In short­er flights they’ve approached the 10 foot goal. To learn more about the project you can read and lis­ten to Adam Cole’s sto­ry at NPR, “Human-Pow­ered Heli­copter: Straight Up Dif­fi­cult.”

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