A human-powered rotorcraft built by a team of students in Maryland was damaged in a hard landing recently during a test flight, after setting a new (unofficial) altitude record of 9.4 feet. Pilot Henry Enerson was not hurt. The altitude was only 5 inches from the required height to win the elusive Sikorsky Prize. The $250,000 prize, first offered in 1980, requires a human-powered helicopter to hover for one minute and reach an altitude of 3 meters while remaining under control within a constrained box, all in the same flight. The University of Maryland team has so far attained a duration of 65 seconds with its Gamera II rotorcraft. The team is repairing the damage from the Sept. 1 crash and plans to try again soon.
The accident, which occurred on descent, was caused by the failure of a joint that had been repaired after an earlier crash. The aircraft is about 105 feet across and weights about 75 pounds. It has been flown only indoors. AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke with the team advisor Dr. Inderjit Chopra about the project in June; click here for that podcast.