Human-powered Quadcopter Flies Live Tomorrow

A team from the University of Maryland will be taking their human-powered helicopter to the air tomorrow. The current flight record for this type of vehicle is just over 19 seconds of flight at a height of about 8 feet. What surprises us about this attempt is that they’re not pedaling just one main rotor. It seems that the most success in man-powered helicopter flight has come from helicopters with a total of four rotors.

The image seen above is a 2009 test of just one of the four rotor arms that will go into UMD’s finished chopper. Fully assembled it will be about 1/3 the size of a football field, dwarfing the autonomous quadcopters we usually see around here. Get the details about the design from the video after the break. It’s interesting to hear [Dr. Antonio Filipone] talk about the need to generate both the lift and the thrust, where human-powered fixed-wing aircraft only need the thrust. He predicts that human-powered helicopter flight is possible, but that it will only lift the aircraft, with little possibility of moving it in one direction or the other.

The team is attempting to grab the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize with their creation. We wish them the best of luck.


[Thanks Koldfuzion via DiscoveryNews]

30 thoughts on “Human-powered Quadcopter Flies Live Tomorrow

  1. And for their power source, they use a small Asian grad student… Why not call in someone like Alberto Contador, who can maintain an output of over 600 Watts for quite a few minutes? (whereas I, in decent shape, would struggle at anything approaching 300W for a minute).

    That would at least give them more of a chance.

    That said: This is awesome! Although I’d still like a flying bike.

  2. This is all fine and dandy, but, what’s the point?

    I’ve been flying for over 20+ yrs (everything
    from Learjets to Citations, to Bell 222’s, 430’s).

    What next ? A contest to see if we can make a
    hamster powered weather balloon ?

    I’m surprised Sikorsky is a sponsor. Then again,
    they commissioned that azz-hat over at orange
    county choppers to make a ‘custom’ bike for them.
    (even though the ‘old man’ totally disrespected
    them)… great way to spend my shareholder dollars!

  3. Leardriver – the point is that discoveries made in technology at the very limits of what can be done today produce future products that are mainstream later on. The developments that came about as a result of the Gossamer Condor and Albatross human powered aircraft ended up in projects for UAVs and possible future Mars long-term flying missions. Aerovironment (the company that was started by the Gossamer designer) is a major player in UAV development.

  4. I’m sitting in the UMD gymnasium right now. I’ve been watching the attempts since yesterday, and it’s really thrilling. The mechanical difficulties are almost all worked out, and one attempt had 3 of the 4 legs off the ground. For the record, the pilot is a 20 year old named Judy (not Asian or a grad student). She’s a competitive cyclist, so she has a huge strength to weight ratio. The mechanical problem they were having is that the carbon fiber frame was flexing a lot during operation, so that put slack in the chain connecting the foot pedals and the hand crank, and the chain kept coming off the gears as a result. They have a tensioner on it now, so no more slack. They’re making small mods as we speak, then they’ll try yet again. I’ve taken a video of every attempt, which I’ll put on YouTube at some point. Feel free to ask questions if you want to know anything specific…

  5. As a Mech/Aero Eng undergrad student at UF, it is interesting to see the design being put forth by UMD. We (myself and some friends) have started a small “exploratory” club to look at multiple designs and whether or not they are possible with current materials available.

    Hell, the prize has only been around for 20 odd years, someone needs to win it soon!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.