Students from the Clark School of Engineering at University of Maryland made history with their human-powered Gamera II helicopter this weekend, keeping the aircraft hovering in the air for 50 seconds. Unfortunately they weren't able to reach their ultimate goal of 60 seconds — a key requirement in taking home the prestigious $250,000 AHS Sikorsky Prize. The team will attempt further flights under observation of the National Aeronautic Association in August.
Measuring 105 feet wide yet weighing only 71 pounds, the Gamera II's refined design allows it to be powered entirely through pedaling. Even so, successfully controlling the aircraft requires a fair amount of finesse and skill. Three students alternated piloting duties between each record attempt, and the team endured numerous malfunctions and setbacks throughout their latest series of flights. All told, they still managed to surpass the 11-second record of the original Gamera model with flights timed at 35, 40 and 50 seconds. You can see the longest run in the video below, and head to the project's official site for more details.