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Gamera II Team Smashes Previous Best Human-Powered Helicopter Flight Time

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the pedal-faster dept.

Transportation 118

Zothecula writes "For over 30 years, the $250,000 for the American Helicopter Society's Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize has looked decidedly secure, but Gamera II has changed all that. Last week, Clark School of Engineering team pilots came close to breaking one of the competition's major milestones. Ph.D. candidate from Kyle Gluesenkamp from the School's mechanical engineering department, hand-cranking and pedaling like his life depended on it, managed to keep the huge quad-rotor craft aloft for 50 seconds, an impressive new world record that's currently awaiting validation by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA)." We previously covered their attempt to break the record last May.

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And that's why (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439513)

That's why I bought a Saturn.

Gamera is friend to all children! (4, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439521)

Gamera is REALLY NEAT.
Gamera is FULL OF MEAT.
We all love you, GAMERA!

Re:Gamera is friend to all children! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439703)

That's exactly what popped into my head when I read the title.

Re:Gamera is friend to all children! (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439759)

Mine too. How the hell is it modded offtopic?

Remember when this was a geeky site, and not Huffington Post for sperglords?

Holy crap! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439545)

That's practical...

Someone wake me when there's something realistic to cheer about.

Re:Holy crap! (3, Interesting)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439861)

A somewhat more practical device could be a hydrid airship/helicopter. Keep it heavier than air, but use a hydrogen-filled balloon to counter most of the weight and cycle power to carry the rest. Unfortunately, it would still be large, but the helicopter part could be substantially smaller.

Re:Holy crap! (1)

Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440133)

Hydrogen? Like the Hindenburg?

Re:Holy crap! (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440401)

What could possibly go wrong? Oh, the inanity.

Re:Holy crap! (0)

cusco (717999) | more than 2 years ago | (#40444113)

Probably you don't realize that the reason that the Hindenburg burned so dramatically is that the paint used to seal the canvas skin of the airship contained aluminum powder and an oxidizer. Essentially the thing was painted with rocket fuel. Film clips of another hydrogen-filled air ship of the period which burned (one of the US Navy ones IIRC) showed a considerably different and slower burn pattern without the dramatic sky-high flames.

Re:Holy crap! (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#40444507)

Busted on Mythbusters; the paint used to seal the canvas had the wrong proportions, and did not have the same burn rate as rocket fuel. The paints were also layered, and at least one of those layers was fairly fire retardant. If you watch the episode on the Hindenburg, you'll see they did a number of large-scale models, and it really was the hydrogen that caused part of the issue (ANY skin that is at all burnable will cause the same effect when the volume of hydrogen gets large enough). In small-scale, hydrogen just burns "up" -- and quickly, with an almost invisible flame. This doesn't scale, however.

Short story is: it's possible to use hydrogen in an airship if you use the right fireproof materials for structure and envelope -- but it's still going to cause a large fireball if it starts leaking and is exposed to flame (oxygen is also needed, so as long as it's sealed, sparks inside the envelope shouldn't be a big problem).

Re:Holy crap! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40444505)

The Piasecki PA-97 was just such an airship. It ended poorly.

Impressive engineering feat (1, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439571)

The "flight" was a bit underwhelming. One question about the rules, though. Could you create something that would allow you to store your energy (e.g. spring winding) on top of direct power? Seems like that would help get you off the ground (maybe at the cost of too much weight?).

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439595)

Flywheels!

Re:Impressive engineering feat (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439743)

MILLIONS of FLIES!!

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439811)

Billions and billions of flies!!

[/Sagan]

Re:Impressive engineering feat (4, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439697)

That would basically render the whole exercise pointless, because any energy-storage device on-board the craft could be powered by any form of energy. For instance, if you could build a giant 8-seat helicopter and power it with electric batteries, then even a human could "power" it by using an exercise bike to charge the batteries, very slowly, over the course of days or months. I think the whole idea is to make a craft that's so light that a human can power it directly; by storing energy, you can make the craft as big and heavy as you want.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439783)

Realistically it is an interesting exercise (pun intended) in efficient design. Real question is: for a 100% efficient design, of zero mass, how long can the best (i.e., well doped) cyclist in the world stay aloft?

Re:Impressive engineering feat (4, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440791)

That's a good question. However, as an engineer, I feel obliged to point out that this exercise, while interesting, has absolutely zero practicality or usefulness. Even if you could reduce the helicopter's mass to zero, the amount of energy a human would have to expend to keep himself aloft is staggering. Obviously, a fit human can do it for a minute or three, an athlete like Lance Armstrong might be able to keep it up for 5-10, but that's it; after that, they'll be crashing.

Not only that, this test isn't very realistic as far as helicopters are concerned: they're not far enough away from the ground. Close to the ground, you get the in-ground hover effect, which reduces the amount of power you need to stay aloft. Over 10 feet or so, you go into out-of-ground effect, and then your power requirements increase significantly. In-ground effect is only useful for taxiing to your runway or helipad; if you want to hover anywhere else, you're generally doing it out-of-ground. So even a fit human will have a much harder time keeping that up for long, even with a zero-mass machine. There's a reason birds have hollow bones, and why even hummingbirds (which hover rather than glide) have very limited flight durations, despite their tiny size and mass.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (2)

Strider- (39683) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441963)

That's a good question. However, as an engineer, I feel obliged to point out that this exercise, while interesting, has absolutely zero practicality or usefulness. Even if you could reduce the helicopter's mass to zero, the amount of energy a human would have to expend to keep himself aloft is staggering. Obviously, a fit human can do it for a minute or three, an athlete like Lance Armstrong might be able to keep it up for 5-10, but that's it; after that, they'll be crashing.

Also, it doesn't involve spherical cows in a vacuum.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

es330td (964170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40443055)

My vacuum has point mass rubber chickens, thank you.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40442015)

I believe the amount of energy required decreases as the airfoil area increases. If so, then magic engineering materials (zero weight infinite strength) would make that approach zero. I do think the design in the video has practical application; if it's efficient enough to run on human power for a few seconds, then when you put a motor on it of some kind it should still be far more efficient than other helicopters.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40442267)

I don't think so; a larger airfoil has more friction. It's not like you can move some zero-weight airfoil through the air with zero energy; even with no mass it'll still have air resistance. The whole way a helicopter hovers is by forcing air downwards at a rate sufficient to counteract gravity; there's no way that's going to be a low-energy feat, even if you made your craft zero-mass (well, it might be zero energy if the zero-mass craft weren't carrying any passengers or cargo, but that's not too useful).

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#40447013)

You just reminded me of the Lifter Project. There is some cool video of these things, which generate lift from electrostatic effects on the air. Almost totally silent (some hum is apparently sometimes noticeable), no moving parts. One of the experiments even flew a mouse. Lift is apparently on the order of one gram per watt (if I recall from looking into this about five years ago). Contrary to the strong beliefs of some of the experimenters, there is no evidence that it works in space - i.e., it is not what drives flying saucers. But I still think that the method might be usable to drive an airship.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40443705)

The goal of Gamemra II is to make a man powered helicopter, but that's only it's literal goal. Almost all research challenges are focused on creating deeper understanding or non-intuitive workarounds, that some engineer can later use to improve existing products. I doubt they ship this as a product, but some aspect of this may make every helicopter more efficient in the future.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Kadagan AU (638260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40443741)

It looks like Lance Armstrong may not be eligible:

4.2.3 No drugs or stimulants shall be used by any member of the crew. An assurance must be given to the official observers at the time of the attempt that this requirement has been met.

He's under investigation for using such drugs/stimulants [nytimes.com] .

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 2 years ago | (#40444811)

In-ground effect was the first question that popped into my head watching that video. Glad to see someone with more knowledge on the subject thought the same way. (I feel like I got a bonus question on a quiz right!)

Re:Impressive engineering feat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40445137)

Someone has obviously never needed "a minute or three" to get out of the way of a speeding lava flow. The design is genius.We mock what we don't understand...

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 2 years ago | (#40446515)

"However, as an engineer, I feel obliged to point out that this exercise, while interesting, has absolutely zero practicality or usefulness. "

Yeah, that's why Sikorsky has put up a $250,000 prize [wikipedia.org] for anyone who can fly a human powered 'copter for a minute to an altitude of 3m. Because there is certainly no point in this exercise.

What a crap engineer you must be to have built a wall so close to your face.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#40446781)

The problem is that the construction they have uses massive amounts of ground effect (note how propellers are lowered to the ground level on the machine, causing it to look massive).

At 3m ground effect will be much weaker. So while this is indeed an interesting advancement, it's not very practical in terms of looking for something that can meet the criteria of Sikorsky's prize. It's too specialized to be dependent on maximum amount of ground effect to scale as altitude increases. The construction that would hover at that altitude would likely want to minimize weight and friction over maximizing ground effect.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#40446725)

Your bird comparison is quite a bit off. Birds are ornitorpters or mixed combination of both ornitopter and fixed wing (ornitopter on take off, fixed wing on travel for most hawks for example).

Difference between those and rotating wing based helicopter is the massive difference in used energy to stay afloat. There's a reason why US Marines really, REALLY wanted a mixed format of rotor and fixed wing for their troop transport - fixed wing is far more energy efficient then rotating one.

That is also why we have had fixed wing gliders for ages. As long as you get one of those in the air, it will stay there almost indefinitely provided there are enough pillars of hot rising air for it to maintain altitude. They are just that energy efficient.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#40446889)

Not only that, this test isn't very realistic as far as helicopters are concerned: they're not far enough away from the ground. Close to the ground, you get the in-ground hover effect, which reduces the amount of power you need to stay aloft. Over 10 feet or so, you go into out-of-ground effect, and then your power requirements increase significantly. In-ground effect is only useful for taxiing to your runway or helipad; if you want to hover anywhere else, you're generally doing it out-of-ground. So even a fit human will have a much harder time keeping that up for long, even with a zero-mass machine. There's a reason birds have hollow bones, and why even hummingbirds (which hover rather than glide) have very limited flight durations, despite their tiny size and mass.

Yes, this is what I was going to mention. Anyone who flies small planes knows about ground effect [wikipedia.org] (or see 'Ekranoplan' for a large-scale Russian version and some interesting video.) The rotor blades in this test never got more than about a foot off the fIoor. IIRC ground effect applies decreasingly with height up to about the wingspan. Even the 10 foot criteria is still well within the blade diameter, but I wouldn't argue at that point. Of course, it's still a very cool achievement of both technology and human effort.

One thing I've wondered - it seems to me that a rowing motion would enlist more of a body's muscular resources - why use hand and foot pedals?

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439733)

That would be absurd. You could store an arbitrary amount of electricity up beforehand and run the thing off batteries.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (5, Informative)

Stickybombs (1805046) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439839)

No. The rules http://www.vtol.org/awards-and-contests/human-powered-helicopter/hph-rules [vtol.org] (Rule 4.1.4) say that you can not use any form of stored energy. They exclude the rotors, of course.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439965)

So, no stored food energy allowed? How would one power the thing at all?

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Stickybombs (1805046) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440219)

Well, you could read it, but it says "No devices for storing energy either for takeoff or for use in flight shall be permitted." I doubt that many people would consider pre-consumed food to be a 'device'.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

yincrash (854885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440623)

So, there does appear to be a flywheel. However, it looks like it's being used as a capacitor to even out energy flow rather than for long term storage. Would this disqualify it?

Re:Impressive engineering feat (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439855)

I wonder if you could just beat the record by getting a real cyclist on the thing. Put one of those Olympic or TdF cyclists on the thing. They probably wouldn't even have to use their arms. You could probably design a helicopter with 2 people powering the helicopter. If one person can lift their own weight plus the weight of the craft, then 2 people could distribute the weight of the craft between them. So long as you didn't need too much extra parts to make up for the extra complexity of 2 (or more) riders. Definitely a lot of room for improvement and breaking this new record.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440147)

Given the (by human standards) alarmingly high power draw, and therefore short duration, of the flight, endurance athletes like bicyclists might not be your best choice...

What I would be curious to know is whether muscle tissue is, fundamentally, up to the job(obviously it is for winged flight; but helicopters are trickier). If you dropped the requirement that a human be involved, and allowed the team to get out the scalpel and harvest whatever sorts of muscle tissue they preferred, from whatever species, and force-feed it some sort of oxygenated nutrient fluid, would there be one up to the task?

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440481)

Given the (by human standards) alarmingly high power draw, and therefore short duration, of the flight, endurance athletes like bicyclists might not be your best choice...

So get someone used to a short burst of energy instead of an endurance athlete? Seems obvious.

Just as there are marathon runners and 100m dash sprinters, in cycling you have both endurance events such as the Tour de France, as well as sprints, such as what you might see in track cycling [wikipedia.org] at the Olympics. I'd wager that one of them would be ideal for this sort of experiment. And even though a Tour de France rider might not be ideal, I'd still take one of them over a typical grad student. ;)

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#40442685)

endurance athletes like bicyclists might not be your best choice...

Well, duh. A minute is pretty much entirely anaerobic.

You want a guy like this: 500m Lightweight Men's 40-49 Indoor Rowing World Record [youtube.com]

1:23.4 works out to 603 watts on the C2 calculator. Lightweight is 72.5 kg (160 lb) max. He's cranking out 8.3 watts/kg for 85 seconds (assuming peak weight). And he's old.

Tour de France 2011 - Analysis Stage 19 [www.srm.de]

Chris Anker's average for 6:50 min was 433 watts (6.7 w/kg), his heart rate went from 139 to 170 bpm. That was his max heart rate for the day - after three weeks and especially after three hard days in the Alps he is not able to get even close to his max heart rate recorded at the beginning of the Tour.

Part of the reason is that rowers work additional muscle groups, which really helps over anaerobic duration. Another great things about this guy is he's really smooth and consistent, up until the last ten strokes.

Here's a guy who's no lightweight delivering 513 watts for 6 minutes: Bernhard "THE MACHINE" Pfaller [youtube.com]

The energy expended throwing your body up and down the slide is not counted. Probably gets him closer to Tour standards for watts/kg if this expenditure was also included.

For a copter, you'd design the machine so that the foot pedestal moved and the body stays still over its center of mass (the seat needs to slide slightly).

Super geek bonus: Converting a Concept 2 static erg to a dynamic erg. [youtube.com]

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#40444753)

You have an excellent point regarding design: why not build it around a rowing machine instead of hand-and-feet pedals? It's efficient, and a flywheel should be able to even out the force expenditure... and rowers should be able to take to the thing like ducks to water :)

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441063)

You, sir, have the right idea!

Whenever I mention such things to others, they call me a "monster". I say they simply lack vision.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 2 years ago | (#40445391)

I think if you went for a sprinter, a cyclist would probably be a very good choice.

I read that Chris Hoy can put out around 1000W for just over a minute. Obviously he weighs a bit more than the student in the film, but I'd imagine he'd have what it takes, so long as he could adjust to the riding position.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40445037)

Also looks like the guy cranking the thing spun out, despite putting in a very good effort. Needs an extra gear or two and a shifter to keep the power input at a much more human friendly RPM. Something that caters much more to strength and anerobic stamina than overall peak aerobic capacity. (We're not built like high-revving birds, with that nifty flow-through respiratory system. Human motors are more about low-end torque.) With the exception of fixie riders on circle tracks, or being in the process of sprinting, most pro cyclists make good use of gearing to maximize power band efficiency. IIRC, that tends to be somewhere around 80-100 RPM.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439879)

The "flight" was a bit underwhelming

It was an impressive achievement, but I don't know that it counts as "flight". In reality, it is a ground-effect craft.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439885)

The "flight" was a bit underwhelming. One question about the rules, though. Could you create something that would allow you to store your energy (e.g. spring winding) on top of direct power? Seems like that would help get you off the ground (maybe at the cost of too much weight?).

If it's a solidly mechanical system, I would call it fair game; Of course, I'm not the judge you would have to impress.

Not sure where (most) the respondents to your query get this obsession with batteries from...

Re:Impressive engineering feat (2)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440733)

A bit too solid, and the angles are all wrong (for the rider).

Putting the rider in a reclined position, he's unable to use his body weight against the pedals. Using his arms,he's unable to brace his body to use the full power of his legs (by far more powerful than arms), and by using fixed gearing - the cyclist and the craft reaches max-rpm quickly. Adding gearing would allow the rider to get the rotors spinning with relative ease, then increase the rpm of the rotors by switching gears.

I say:
1. eliminate hand pedaling
2. put the rider upright
3. make it an 18 speed

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441469)

3. make it an 18 speed

This. As soon as I read TFA, I thought the same thing - why no gears? With modern, ultralight materials, proper gearing, and as you mentioned, corrected pilot positioning, I can't imagine a human-powered heli would be all that much of a challenge to build....

Probably wouldn't take a basketball stadium to house the thing, either.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

TheAlmightyQ (306969) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441935)

If you're just trying to get it hovering indoors a few feet off the ground, there's really a pretty narrow RPM band you need to be concerned with. Why introduce the added drivetrain loss (however small) and weight of extra gears?

According to the teams website, they think the extra hand pedaling increases the amount of power the human pilot can put out around 10-20%. Sounds worth it.

As to the recumbent position, I'm just guessing but maybe it has to do with stresses on the frame (which looks like it's barely up to the task of supporting the pilot). On upright bikes riders often have a tendency to mash the peddles, rather than smoothly spinning them, creating highly directional and varying forces. A recumbent position limits the amount of force you can apply to a single peddle.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Strider- (39683) | more than 2 years ago | (#40442085)

Putting the rider in a reclined position, he's unable to use his body weight against the pedals. Using his arms,he's unable to brace his body to use the full power of his legs (by far more powerful than arms), and by using fixed gearing - the cyclist and the craft reaches max-rpm quickly. Adding gearing would allow the rider to get the rotors spinning with relative ease, then increase the rpm of the rotors by switching gears.

You, sir, obviously don't have much experience in cycling. Recumbent bicycles (where the rider is in a reclined position) are far more efficient than the vertical orientation. So much so that recumbent bicycles are banned from all major cycling competitions (Tour de France etc...) This is because rather than only having the ability to push/pull against gravity, the rider can instead push and pull against the seat itself, allowing them to put out significantly more power, and also be far more efficient because effectively they aren't lifting themselves with each stroke.

As far as the hand crank, that also makes sense since it's a way to harness the energy out of the arms which are otherwise deadweight in a test like this. You might as well extract as much energy from the rider/pilot's physique as you possibly can, rather than just letting them hang out where they're not doing much.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40442367)

Adding the hand crank (eventually) detracts from the energy the cyclist can put into the pedals as he hits the limit of his VO2 max. You won't see that setup in the record-setting recumbents.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40442851)

You, sir, obviously don't have much experience in cycling.

I quit racing 10 years ago when the road scraped half of my face off. I woke up 2 days later and had no inclination to race again. I did learn an important lesson - the lightest forks are not necessarily the best. Weight be damned, I now only ride on the strongest forks I can find.

Maybe it's a difference in riding styles.... I never liked the feel of recumbent. I use my hands/arms to pull my stroke down when I need the extra power as I described (brace to use the full power of the legs)

When and if they ever have a successful flight of this device - I certainly hope they reconsider the hand crank. The pilot is going to need a way to control the craft - and traditionally that's done with hand controls.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40444411)

Or maybe they have 30% less wind resistance, which matters not in this endeavor, and that is why there were banned in the 1930's from racing. But hey, you sound good.

Re:Impressive engineering feat (1)

asliarun (636603) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439969)

The "flight" was a bit underwhelming. One question about the rules, though. Could you create something that would allow you to store your energy (e.g. spring winding) on top of direct power? Seems like that would help get you off the ground (maybe at the cost of too much weight?).

You need a helicopter parent to help you out with that one.

University of Maryland (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439599)

Although the summary doesn't state it, the Clark School of Engineering is part of the University of Maryland at College Park.

Re:University of Maryland (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#40443175)

Thank you. I doubt we'll have any tour groups asking where we store the manpowered helicopter and then have to explain to them, no that was some sub-school of another University, but it would be nice if journalists realize that off of a college campus, almost no individual department's name is well known; instead you should refer to the whole institution when reworking a press release from a campus newspaper or website for general consumption.

Get a better cyclist? (3, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439611)

Seems to me they could break 1 minute easily with a better cyclist and maybe better gearing ratios?

Re:Get a better cyclist? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439653)

Get the pilot some pedal straps for his feet!

Re:Get a better cyclist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40441623)

Capital ideas from both of you!

First, get rid of the modern clipless pedals used by every cyclist at every level of competition for the last 20 years, and replace them with leather straps that the pros stopped using in the 80's. Then, assume that they spent no time at all tuning the machine for the optimal power output from the pilot, and just starting fucking with gears and pedal placement. Finally, assume that no work was done to find a fit or trained athlete to fly the thing; they just picked up a random wino on the street.

Boy, I really look forward to the flying machine built by you soopor geniouses!

Re:Get a better cyclist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40443949)

They were clipless pedals - you can see him twist his feet at the end to disengage them.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439729)

Alberto Contador is available, and no one cares if you slam a bag of clenbuterol tainted blood before the flight.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440239)

See rule 4.2.3 [vtol.org] .

No drugs or stimulants shall be used by any member of the crew

Although the way that's written, it doesn't even permit the use of coffee or aspirin. Without an explicit list of banned substances, along with the amounts found in the blood/urine to be considered in violation of the rule, just about every person on the planet could be disqualified.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40440655)

They'd probably defer to WADA for the drug list/testing protocols, if they felt it was an issue. I'm just guessing though.

Bicycle racing is pretty strict about drug use - and of all the professional sports, it's arguably the most strict about testing. During competition things like ibuprofen are not permitted. Cycling, is a sport of suffering, and something that diminishes suffering like that is frowned upon. There are therapeutic use exemptions, which are controversial, and if a rider crashes during a multi-day stage race he can usually score a couple aspirin from the race officials, but they keep track of it.

Coffee is permitted in whatever quantities the rider wants (the long races often have informal pit stops for mass public urination).

Re:Get a better cyclist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40440735)

Meh. Taylor Phinney is a better 1 minute rider - although Contador is pretty skinny.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441329)

A lighter rider like Sagan or Zabriskie might be better.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40441691)

Contador can sustain more watts/kg than either. Phinney, Sagan, Zabriske trail him by quite a bit. The only cyclist is recent times who gets close is Armstrong.

But since the goal is only 60 seconds the thing might be better off with a powerful sprinter. An Andre Greipel type. In a 60 second period he can dfeinitely produce more watts/kg than the above.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (2)

residents_parking (1026556) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439769)

Agreed - 50 seconds is a sprint that strongly suggests a training limit. I guess the point of a competition like this is the design of an efficient vehicle, so how about publishing the power requirements (wattage)?

Re:Get a better cyclist? (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439923)

To optimize you need to find a cyclist with the best power to overall aircraft weight ratio. Then test that cyclist to find the crank length and rpm in which they can produce the most power. Finally pick a gear ratio to match that with your desired rotor rpm.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440205)

Which is what I find amazing about this project, that there is so much room for improvement. The gear ratios are wrong, the pedals are placed suboptimally, and the whole thing shakes like it's falling apart, and yet it still flies. By fixing the flaws this vehicle can be made much better. I guess the reason they didn't use a professional cyclist is that they want to create a helicopter that an average man can ride.

Re:Get a better cyclist? (1)

beltsbear (2489652) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440375)

They have a pretty good cyclist. I am sure they have optimized the gear ratios, the cyclist, the cyclist power to weight ratio and just about everything just to get this far. Maybe with an extensive search they may find a better cyclist, but they are not going to be much better.

Paging Alberto Contador (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439623)

They need another 10 seconds? Call Contador, he probably isn't too busy right now.

A few bites of "steak" later and that record will be smashed, it isn't like the WADA regulates helicopter flights.

Re:Paging Alberto Contador (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440105)

That's 2 posts about Contador in this article already. Sure he has plenty of allegations against him, but the whole sport is pretty much run off drugs. He was just caught.

Re:Paging Alberto Contador (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40440899)

the whole sport is pretty much run off drugs.

LiveStrong.

An auspicious moniker (1)

Dr. Gamera (1548195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439627)

(Dr.) Gamera: when you care enough to send the very best.

Awe-inspiring? (3, Interesting)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439659)

Until then, have a look at the following video of Gluesenkamp's awe-inspiring record flight

I'm sorry, I didn't even realize he had lifted off the ground. Awe-inspiring isn't exactly the word I'd use.

Re:Awe-inspiring? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439847)

Until then, have a look at the following video of Gluesenkamp's awe-inspiring record flight

I'm sorry, I didn't even realize he had lifted off the ground. Awe-inspiring isn't exactly the word I'd use.

Not "awe," but rather "awwww... :("

Re:Awe-inspiring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40440037)

The design depends heavily of ground effect, with the rotors only inches of the ground.
You could argue it has more in common with a hovercraft than a helicopter.
Still quite an achievement but not really in spirit of the competition prize.

Re:Awe-inspiring? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40440387)

Until then, have a look at the following video of Gluesenkamp's awe-inspiring record flight

I'm sorry, I didn't even realize he had lifted off the ground. Awe-inspiring isn't exactly the word I'd use.

Let's see you levitate for 50 seconds. It's easy to dismiss someone else's achievement, when you have no intention of doing anything yourself.

Re:Awe-inspiring? (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441033)

I'm sorry, I didn't even realize he had lifted off the ground. Awe-inspiring isn't exactly the word I'd use.

I was more in awe of the interns whose job is to stand right next to the GYMNASIUM-LONG SPINNING BLADES!

Re:Awe-inspiring? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40441433)

It just shows you how difficult it actually is to achieve. I thought it was cool and inspiring, especially to see such motivated people, the result of great teamwork, sharp minds, and people who are excited about what they are doing. It's much better than crapping on everything from the sidelines.

Ground effect (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439789)

Is it a helicopter or just using ground effect? I mean could it fly higher?

Re:Ground effect (2)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440039)

Is it a helicopter or just using ground effect? I mean could it fly higher?

The device in question does appear to be designed specifically to maximize the use of ground effect. The whole machine looks like it's upside-down to get the rotors as close to the floor as possible. However, just because it was designed to use ground effect, doesn't mean it isn't a helicopter. I consider it a helicopter, just not a very practical one.

Kudos to the designer for taking every possible advantage to break the record!

Raise my rent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40439813)

What an uplifting story...

Oh, not THAT Gamera II (1)

coldsalmon (946941) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439857)

I thought they meant "Gamera vs. Barugon," where the giant turtle-monster Gamera smashes all sorts of things, including most of Osaka.

Re:Oh, not THAT Gamera II (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440227)

DARPA is working on that version. A fire-breathing drone, to scare the bejesus out of the natives.

not really practical application (3, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40439917)

They're taking massive advantage of ground effect, and are using the distributed rotors to magnify the effect more than a single rotor could. That's probably the primary reason they did so well.

The entire thing seems to be an exercise in futility. Helicopters aren't very efficient. I'd be much more interested in seeing more of the human-powered-glider competitions. Those guys can keep them up in the air quite a lot longer.

Re:not really practical application (2)

Alioth (221270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440203)

Well, no, human powered gliders are already practical and you can use a bog standard Schempp-Hirth Discus. They do it quite a lot off one ridge in England, basically a bunch of people with a bungee rope sling the glider off the edge of the ridge, and the glider pilot then uses the lift to stay aloft like any other launch method.

For powered fixed wing there has also been the Gossamer Albatross which crossed the English channel.

This on the other hand takes quite a feat of engineering to make something light enough AND stable enough AND strong enough AND distribute the power to the rotors. It's not about being a practical design, it's about meeting quite a tricky engineering challenge.

Full scale helicopters also take massive advantage of ground effect - many helicopters struggle to hover out of ground effect at gross weight. Watch any light piston helicopter take off, and you'll see it lifts into a ground effect hover, then flies in ground effect until it's in translational lift and then some before actually climbing out.

Re:not really practical application (2)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440525)

Full scale helicopters also take massive advantage of ground effect - many helicopters struggle to hover out of ground effect at gross weight. Watch any light piston helicopter take off, and you'll see it lifts into a ground effect hover, then flies in ground effect until it's in translational lift and then some before actually climbing out.

You do not fully understand what you are otherwise accurately describing.
Full scale helicopters do not "take advantage" of ground effect. It is actually a hindrance that reduces its flight capacity.
The reason is that the helicopter is caught inside its own turbulences.
As long as the aircraft is within the ground effect, its flight performances are degraded.

You can find a real-life account of this phenomena, in books such as "Chickenhawk" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chickenhawk_(book) [wikipedia.org] by Robert Mason or "Centaur Flights" by Richard Spalding for example.

Re:not really practical application (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441245)

pardon him for he was thinking about hovercraft.

full of eels! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40443261)

how many eels in that there hovercraft?

Re:not really practical application (1)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440207)

Do you also feel that all the school projects you've ever worked on were futile as well?

Re:not really practical application (1)

ameline (771895) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440293)

Yes -- Ground Effect will be significantly in play while the craft is within 0.5 of a wingspan/rotor span of the ground -- but it does drop off fairly quickly as you increase distance. It's hard to say with a craft like that just when GE stops having a strong effect -- but judging from those videos, It's likely not nearly enough once you're past 50 to 100cm. The Sikorsky prize specifies 3 M off the ground for 60 seconds. I doubt that human powered craft will achieve that any time soon.

Re:not really practical application (1)

BeeRockxs (782462) | more than 2 years ago | (#40440811)

The prize doesn't specify 3 meters off the ground for 60 seconds, but 60 seconds in which you once have to reach the 3 meters.

Re:not really practical application (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40440857)

Gliders by definition don't need any power, though launching does require some input. There's a good video of a guy with a glider with leg holes in the bottom which he uses to run off a hill.

In the competitive world, endurance flights are no longer recorded simply because on a good day it's too easy just to sit in a thermal or fly along a wave line until you're forced to land when it gets dark. Modern fibreglass gliders are extremely efficient aircraft (glide ratio of up to around 60:1) and are great fun to fly to boot.

The real competitions these days are the autonomous solar-powered gliders. We're nearly at the stage where indefinite flight is possible, with onboard energy storage.

Journalism Fail (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40440169)

It would be nice if somewhere in the article they explained anything about what the first sentence is talking about.

What the hell is the prize for and why is it in danger?

I'm not looking it up, I'm not even interested in the answer anymore. I'm just amazed anyone would publish an article that doesn't even explain the first sentence.

Zothecula writes

No, he didn't. He copied the first paragraph of the article. That's not a submission, it's plagiarism.

Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40441035)

The wings look like they're hollow. Are they filled with air? Seems like filling them with hydrogen might get back some weight. In fact, why not make the wings about 4 feet thick and fill them with hydrogen to the point where the thing is almost weightless. Is that cheating?

Motorize it! (0)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40441663)

Wonder what attaching a small engine to it would be like, something like a 4hp or something...

Before anyone starts whining about "rules" and no stored energy, what do you think Humans run off of? Sunshine and fairy dust? If you like for fairness make it run of ethanol or bio-diesel, both which the unprocessed ingredients could power humans.

I can just hear Dastardly now (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40442021)

"Keep pedalling Mutley, keep pedalling!"

2 or more human powered craft more efficient? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40443819)

There seems to be a lot of minimum weight for this helicopter (the frame, the gears). I'm wondering if they created a version with 2 humans pedaling instead of one it could weigh substantially less than 200% of the 1 human version.

try it naked (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 2 years ago | (#40445985)

He probably could have gained an extra second or two if he did it naked and was completely shaved.
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