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Fri, Aug 19, 2011

'Gamera' Human-Powered Helicopter Record Certified By NAA

Clark School Student Team Sets New U.S. Flight Records at 11.4 Seconds

The National Aeronautic Association has certified that on July 13, 2011, the human-powered helicopter Gamera, designed and built by graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering and piloted by biology student Judy Wexler, achieved lift-off and hovered for 11.4 seconds, setting the new U.S. records for flight duration and flight duration by a female pilot.

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The NAA has submitted information to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale to permit evaluation of the July flight for world records in the same categories. The NAA states that this process may take two to three months. The team's May flight is still being evaluated by the FAI.

"Competitions like the human-powered helicopter bring out the best in Clark School students and show that they are fully prepared to contribute to technological progress," stated Clark School Dean Darryll Pines.  "The new record is exciting and meaningful, but the real accomplishment is the students' learning that they can successfully apply their skills in an incredibly challenging engineering problem."

The team is evaluating the current vehicle and the next steps towards competing for the Sikorsky Prize. The prize was established by the American Helicopter Society and requires an individual or team to build a helicopter powered only by human means that can lift off and achieve a hover time of 60 seconds and reach a height of 3 meters sometime during a 60-second flight while remaining in a 10 square-meter area.

"Through the development of Gamera we have learned many things about extreme ground effect aerodynamic design and also about lightweight structural design," said one of the team's student leaders, Joe Schmaus. "At this point we are combining these two knowledge bases to determine whether to go for another record-setting, but not prize-winning, flight with Gamera or put all our energy into designing a vehicle capable of the Sikorsky prize."

FMI: www.naa.aero, www.eng.umd.edu

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