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Human-Powered Helicopter Team Sets New Records For Altitude and Flight Duration

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the up-in-the-air-junior-birdmen dept.

Transportation 59

First time accepted submitter daltec writes "The $250,000 American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition prize, unclaimed since 1980, is now within Gamera II's reach. On Thursday, the University of Maryland's Clark School of Engineering team unofficially satisfied two of the three American Helicopter Society Sikorsky Prize requirements. The giant craft flew for 65 seconds, stayed within a 10 square meter area and hovered at two feet of altitude. New unofficial U.S. and world flight duration records were also set. The team expects to make their next attempt Saturday." That's today!

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That's not today! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200307)

Not in Australia. It's yesterday.

Re:That's not today! (5, Funny)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200325)

Not in Australia. It's yesterday.

well. did they do it?

Re:That's not today! (1)

daltec (674408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200449)

Not yet -- the rules of the contest [vtol.org] are pretty specific, but basically they have achieved the duration and stability requirements, and have almost gotten the altitude requirements -- but never on the same flight. They are hoping to win the prize today. Interestingly enough, another competing team in Canada [vtol.org] is flying this very weekend.

Re:That's not today! (5, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200511)

To be a real helicopter, it needs to be able to fly out of ground effect.
This would be at least a height equal to the diameter of the propellor, or 40 meters height about with the current prop.

Under this height, it gains significant advantage from being next to the ground - it's behaving like a hovercraft, not a helicopter.

See the nice graph at http://www.copters.com/aero/ground_effect.html [copters.com] - two thirds of the way down.
At 1/4 (10m altitude for the above device) the thrust is 20% better than at altitude.
You could in principle make a free-flight helicopter by bolting two http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_Daedalus [wikipedia.org] 's to a light spar, so it's in principle possible.

Re:That's not today! (1)

D'Sphitz (699604) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201725)

Here's the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0qfgBeb35Y&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com]
They never got above maybe 18 inches off the ground, the Sikorsky Prize [wikipedia.org] requires reaching a height of 3 meters.

Re:That's not today! (2)

D'Sphitz (699604) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201739)

It looks like in another flight they reached about 2.5 meters (8 feet) so they're close.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmea3odVgDE#

Re:That's not today! (2)

daltec (674408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41202161)

Today they unofficially broke nine feet. There was an NAA observer there who will certify the altitude, but even he said it was about 9.3 feet. And if 3 meters is about 9.8 feet, they were really close. Unfortunately, something broke and the vehicle crashed, well short of the required 60 seconds.

Re:That's not today! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41203979)

Also that guy standing next to the "pilot" is holding the whole thing up. Those propellers are not causing the thing to float.

Re:That's not today! (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#41202799)

In addition to ground effect, they're inside a building. The walls also help bottle up the air under the vehicle.

Re:That's not today! (1)

jbwolfe (241413) | more than 2 years ago | (#41205481)

OTOH depending on how close the walls are to the rotors, they might encounter rotor wash backfilling the the rotors on the periphery which should have a negative effect on lift and lateral stability. Winglets are increasingly common solution to this effect of spillover on fixed-wing, but have more complicated aerodynamic issues on rotary wings when forward motion is involved. http://blog.aopa.org/helicopter/?m=201106/ [aopa.org]

Human powered (3, Funny)

darkfeline (1890882) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200329)

Not gonna lie, first thought was "Oh, so we can make biofuels from people now?"

Re:Human powered (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201441)

New meaning for p.p.m.: People Per Mile

Re:Human powered (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 2 years ago | (#41202813)

Didn't the Americans already coin this phrase, and do their math based upon it, before they went into Iraq for oil?

10 meter square != 10 sq m (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200351)

The requirement they accomplished is a 10 meter square, not 10 square meters.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200669)

Yes ... and 10 meter square is nothing but 2 x 5

So 10 squared meters ( 10 x 10 ) sound like a more feasible number.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200977)

Yes ... and 10 meter square is nothing but 2 x 5

So 10 squared meters ( 10 x 10 ) sound like a more feasible number.

You got this exactly wrong.

Your "t0 squared meters" is either (10 squared) meters = 100 m, or 10 (squared meters) = 10 m^2.

100 square meters is correct, just like your parent post said. It can only[*] be read as 100 (square meters).

[*] Well, technically, one might imagine bending a meter long rod into a "square meter" that's 25 cm on each side and thus 1/16 m^2 in area, but that's not what square meter means.

But don't take it from me, I'm just an engineer who grew up with the metric system. Go look it up.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201211)

10 square meters is 10 m^2.
10 meters square is 100 m^2 (a 10 meter by 10 meter square).

Though the usage is regional.

But don't take it from me, I'm just an engineer who grew up with the metric system. Go look it up.

Then you aren't from the US or the UK, so your math many not be the issue, but your "English". The metric system is irrelevant to the question. 10 feet square has the same definition. Though you used "meter" so you either are from the US, or learned English US style, so I'm confused as to what your qualifications are.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201235)

I never said that 10-meter square was wrong. Only that 10 square meter (TFS) and 10 squared meter (GPP) were wrong.
A 10-meter square is correct, and that's a 100 square meter square.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201455)

The GPP screwed up in a reply saying "squared meters" in response to someone saying "square meters". Your correction was very engineer like, correct, but useless. You proved him wrong, but in an abusive and confusing way. I corrected your correction, but that doesn't mean I disagreed with you.

I notice you didn't comment on my "proof" you are lying in that there are no places with native English speaking where an engineer could grow up with the metric system (unless you count growing up in the US with "ml" listed on you on you gallon of milk or 12 oz. cans of soda to be growing up with the metric system) and use the word "meter".

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41202179)

I notice you didn't comment on my "proof" you are lying in that there are no places with native English speaking where an engineer could grow up with the metric system (unless you count growing up in the US with "ml" listed on you on you gallon of milk or 12 oz. cans of soda to be growing up with the metric system) and use the word "meter".

Careful with your accusations of lying. It is fully possible to grow up with the metric system, yet live in a country where one says "meter". I've lived in the US for 13 years now, and while American English has rubbed off, I do not forget the metric system.
I have become (I almost wrote gotten) used to Fahrenheit, but the pints here are too small.

But even when not considering moving, you are wrong. Did you know that the US adopted the metric system twice? First in the 1860s, and then in the 1960s. While this was missed by most Americans, it is fully possible to have grown up with the metric system here too, if having furrin parents and going to a progressive school.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41202757)

The US is officially metric, yet I have never heard a weathercaster ever give a temperature in C, nor seen a sign in km. We just get a few things written in both. When grandparents ask for the grandchildren's birth weight in kg, then we'll be metric.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201181)

"The requirement they accomplished is a 10 meter square, not 10 square meters."

I was going to say... I've seen pictures of it and the helicopter itself is bigger than 10 square meters, so I did not see how it could fulfill this requirement.

A 10 meter square makes much more sense.

Re:10 meter square != 10 sq m (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 2 years ago | (#41203077)

I was going to say... I've seen pictures of it and the helicopter itself is bigger than 10 square meters, so I did not see how it could fulfill this requirement.

Well, the helicopter itself is 114 feet across, so it doesn't even fit in a 10 metre square area either. Fortunately, the rules say that a reference point on the frame is used to determine whether the helicopter stayed in the square area, so the size of the helicopter doesn't really matter.

Repairs complete, ready to fly again! (5, Informative)

daltec (674408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200353)

The aircraft was damaged Thursday evening after another attempt at altitude. The team has repaired the craft though and resumed testing just a few minutes ago [twitter.com] . The flights are taking place at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, MD 20785, if you want to see their latest attempts!

Human Powered (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200359)

They need to hire Lance Armstrong. I doubt they can ban him from peddling on this.

Re:Human Powered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200425)

How many items could anyone peddle from a helicopter? It seems hard to approach when it's operating.

Re:Human Powered (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201155)

Peddling while pedalling?

It would help (1)

Goonie (8651) | more than 2 years ago | (#41210251)

Looking at their stats [umd.edu] their pilots can produce about 6W/kg for 2 minutes with the aid of those handcranks. That's not particularly impressive, to be honest. Wander down to a club cycling race and you'll find plenty of guys that can do better than that. If the point of the exercise was purely to break the record, the assistance of an elite athlete or two would make the job a whole lot easier.

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200407)

I knew some guys back in the 70s. They had a human powered ROCKET SHIP. I just wish I could remember how that thing worked.

Re:Meh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200603)

i should stop paying attention to politics (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200413)

all i could think of was politicians flying for years, within a narrow ideological area, and hovering at the highest echelons of power, propelled aloft by nothing but hot air

Nice, but.. (1)

KnightBlade (1074408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200419)

I was imagining 25 people pedaling their asses off and lifting a substantial amount over the ground.

Re:Nice, but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200445)

Hmm!! That's funny: I was imagining an insightful discussion of people who at least read the GODDAMN SUMMARY.

The giant craft flew for 65 seconds, stayed within a 10 square meter area and hovered at two feet of altitude.

(emphasis mine)

Not a fly just a hover (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200437)

Hovering is much easier than flying, I don't think a human-powered helicopter can ever fly.

Re:Not a fly just a hover (1)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200457)

For a helicopter - hovering is almost as hard as flying.
If you increase the rotor thrust by 10%, and tilt it, you end up going sideways at a considerable speed.

Re:Not a fly just a hover (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201003)

But this contraption only hovers a meter above ground, making tremendous use of the ground effect.

Re:Not a fly just a hover (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41202083)

Like many things, its complicated, most especially with a helicopter. When a helicopter is hovering close to the ground you have ground effect lift. Basically the air pushed down by the main rotor reflects off the ground and comes back up, you need less power to just sit there than if you were higher up and just sitting there. When a helicopter is moving horizontally it has translational lift. The rotors are not only pushing air down but are also acting like a normal wing and getting lift from the air coming in from the side of the "disc" formed by the rotor. I remember a book by a Vietnam chopper pilot, he landed in a clearing, took on so many wounded that he didn't have enough power to go straight up, the clearing was too small to go straight forward and get translational lift so he flew a corkscrew out, clipping the tree branches with his rotor. The guy was crazy, in a good sort of way.

Let's see OGE to impress me (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200485)

First of all, hovering is flying.

I don't know about "easier", whatever that means, but actually hovering in a helicopter OGE (out of ground effect) takes considerably more power than cruising in forward flight.

Since this was an extreme case of IN ground effect, color me academically impressed but realistically the feat is completely void of any application.

Re:Let's see OGE to impress me (1)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201157)

realistically the feat is completely void of any application.

Void of a "human pedal-powered helicopter" application is not the same as void of "any" application. Even if no practical human flight comes from it, challenges that foster experiments like these can drive new materials application and development. Perhaps someone figured out how to make a lighter weight carbon fiber tube as a result, or a new adhesive, or even a more efficient motor-generator technology, all in an attempt to gain just that little bit more lift. Or maybe someone figured out a new light weight food that maximizes rapid absorption producing peak human energy output for a two minute window.

If you're hoping this experiment will yield a mass-produced pedal-powered helicopter to take you to work every morning, agreed, we're all going to remain disappointed for some time to come. But maybe the resultant engineering will mean your next car will get an extra few miles out of the gas tank. Or maybe one of these students will make a breakthrough in rooftop windmills as a result. We just don't know it yet, and that's why these are so exciting. But it's certainly premature to say it's void of any application.

Still skeptical. (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200469)

Keeping your craft within a constrained area? Not hard.

Heck, getting a pedal powered craft off the ground isn't that hard. (No really, you can make a pedal powered hovercraft in a weekend. It will only lift you a centimeter, but again, getting off the ground is not that hard.)

But getting 9 feet in the air? That is seriously hard, and no craft I've seen has gotten close. Every single one has used ground effect for their lift, which is why they're all stuck around 18-24" . That's a far cry for supporting your own weight.

Best of luck to them, but they'll seriously need to rethink their craft if they want to win the prize.

Re:Still skeptical. (2)

tukang (1209392) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200585)

But getting 9 feet in the air? That is seriously hard, and no craft I've seen has gotten close.

If you can't be bothered to RTFA then at least WTFV, it shows their craft getting up 8 feet in the air.

Re:Still skeptical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41200897)

Over eight feet, actually. And an official observer from the NAA is on hand, so they must be serious about making an attempt today.

An impressive display (1)

okor (1848382) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200487)

"Sadly, after the record setting attempt, the human's heart exploded."

10 m^2 or a square 10m per side... (1)

BooMonster (110656) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200493)

I don't think they qualify either way, seeing how the craft is 34 meters from wingtip to wingtip.

Not that I could've built this or anything, just saying it doesn't fit in the box it has to stay inside.

Re:10 m^2 or a square 10m per side... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201077)

34 m in diameter... so the area in m^2 would be...
(34/2)^2*pi ... 289*3.14.. - or about 900 m^2.

Yes, a BIT more than 100 m^2, that.

But perhaps they only count the fuselage?

Re:10 m^2 or a square 10m per side... (1)

daltec (674408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201121)

They use the center of the aircraft -- the pilot's position -- as the origin or reference. As long as the reference does not drift beyond the 10 sq meter box, they are good.

Re:10 m^2 or a square 10m per side... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201251)

They use the center of the aircraft -- the pilot's position -- as the origin or reference.

Not necessarily the centre:

"4.4.3 A reference point on the non-rotating part of the machine will be established as a means whereby the observers can judge that the machine stayed within the confines of the 10-meter square."

My guess is that a corner would be easier to judge by.

Re:10 m^2 or a square 10m per side... (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201173)

Rules here [vtol.org]

It appears that the 10-meter square is a leeway area, meaning that the craft must not move more than 5 m from the starting point in the cardinal directions, or more than 7.07 m in the 45 degree diagonal directions.
Why not make it simpler with a circular leeway area? No idea.

The funniest thing I saw was this rule:
"4.1.2 The machine shall be a rotary wing configuration capable of vertical takeoff and landing in still air, and at least one member of the crew shall be non-rotating. "

The race is on! (1)

khendron (225184) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200681)

They are not the only ones [thestar.com] .

video of crash (2)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 2 years ago | (#41200853)

Here is a video from an attempt with crash https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmea3odVgDE# [youtube.com] ! it seems repaired.

Re:video of crash (1)

daltec (674408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201267)

It was indeed repaired, and they are preparing to try again for altitude, even now. That is what did them in Thursday, so fingers crossed!

Are the humans included? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41201501)

Can they be made to perform other tasks? Can we pick the gender?

Such slow blades! (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 2 years ago | (#41201721)

A) that is pretty fucking cool.  not what i expected at all.

B) I love the idea that if you stop pedaling you die!  'course they're pussing out staying just above the ground..."test" indeed.

Another crash! (1)

daltec (674408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41202223)

Well, the craft suffered another malfunction, this time in flight. It appeared that nothing touched the ground or hit anything, it just broke in mid-flight. Nobody was hurt, and it appears that a new record for height was reached, as the last flight unofficially broke nine feet. More info on the team's twitter feed [twitter.com] .

Improvement on Nihon University YURI I (1)

Biogoly (2026888) | more than 2 years ago | (#41203531)

Pretty awesome, looks like they actually have a shot at the prize. However, major props have to go to Nihon University YURI I (1994), http://www.humanpoweredhelicopters.org/yuri1/index.htm [humanpower...opters.org] , from which the GAMERA design is directly based. Big improvements with power to weight ratio by adding the hand crank and carbon fiber materials though.

Helicopter quirks (1)

jbwolfe (241413) | more than 2 years ago | (#41205585)

My favorite unusual aerodynamic effect on rotary wing aircraft is called "retreating blade stall"- the faster the rotor disk moves in forward flight, the slower the retreating blade passes through the air, eventually resulting in significant reduction in lift that can't be compensated for by angle of attack. Only way out is to slow down. http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2012/01/high-speed-helicopters-come-of-age// [airspacemag.com] . Somewhat off topic but interesting.

The design looks familiar (1)

Riktov (632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41209729)

Classic [thingsmagazine.net] , even.

Gamera is friend to all children (1)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 2 years ago | (#41224247)

Not relevant to helicopter article. Just a reminder.
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