Federation Aeronautique Internationale To Begin Evaluation Of
Clark School Flight For World Records
The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) has certified that on
May 12, 2011, the human-powered helicopter Gamera, designed and
built by graduate and undergraduate students of the University of
Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering and piloted by
biology student Judy Wexler, achieved lift-off and hovered for 4.2
seconds, thereby establishing the U.S. national records for the
duration of a human-powered helicopter flight and the duration of a
human-powered helicopter flight by a female pilot.
The NAA has submitted information to the Federation Aeronautique
Internationale to permit evaluation of the flight for world records
in the same categories. The NAA states that this process may take
two to three months.
"Capturing two U.S. national records is a magnificent
accomplishment for our student team, and a significant first step
toward winning the Sikorsky Prize," stated Clark School Dean
Darryll Pines. "In fact, the team has now developed a plan for a
prize attempt in the fall of 2011. First, based on the May 12
flight, we believe that Gamera may already be sufficiently stable
so as to achieve the prize requirement of remaining within a 10
square meter area during flight. Second, in the next several weeks
we will make improvements to Gamera's transmission and weight, and
attempt a second flight to achieve the required 60-second hover.
Finally, in the fall, we will put it all together—a flight
that lasts at least 60 seconds, achieves a 3-meter height at some
point, and remains within the required area."
One of the Gamera team leaders, graduate student Brandon Bush,
noted that the team wished to acknowledge the debt they owe to two
previous teams, one from the California Polytechnic Institute and
one from Nihon University in Tokyo. The Cal Poly team, according to
the NAA, set a "special category" record in a different flight
"We learned a lot from our predecessors," Bush stated. "We are
all trying to accomplish a difficult challenge, and to expand the
world's notion of human flight capabilities. If we succeed in our
efforts to capture the Sikorsky Prize, it will be in part based on
the efforts of these earlier teams."
"Gamera," by the way, is the name of a giant flying turtle in
Japanese science fiction movies, and was selected as the name for
the Clark School vehicle because the University of Maryland's
mascot is the diamondback terrapin, and because the team wanted to
give homage to the team from Nihon University.