Two years, 50 graduate students, countless man hours, and mankind’s insatiable need to prove he can defy gravity will all come to a head on Wednesday when a team of University of Maryland Students attempts to fly its human-powered helicopter, Gamera. They won’t be flying very high, but the payoff could be tremendous; hanging in the balance is a world record, an aviation “first,” and a claim to the $250,000 Sikorsky Challenge.
Constructed of lightweight balsa wood, foam, mylar, and carbon fiber among other things, Gamera is something of a feat in engineering. The backbone is a massive X-frame, with each crossbar measuring 60 feet. At the ends of each crossbar sits a 42-foot rotor powered by the human pilot/engine, who pedals furiously from a module suspended from the center of the X-frame.