Flying a “heli bike”!

Jun 28, 2012 20 Comments by

Here’s an amazing video of students at the University of Maryland and their human-powered helicopter.  This guy is really pedaling hard … guess that’s a natural “safety limiter”!   “Gammera II” currently holds the world record of 50 seconds for human-powered heli flight. The students designed and built it in an effort to capture the Sikorsky Prize, which will be awarded to the first man-powered helicopter that reaches a height of 10 feet during a flight that lasts at least a minute and is contained within a 32.8-foot square area. Stay tuned!


Debra Cleghorn

About the author

Executive editor About me: I’m a publishing professional who has a passion for aviation and RC, and I love creating issues, books and a website that help RC pilots to enjoy this sport even more. I admire scale aircraft and enjoy the convenience of flying smaller electrics.

20 Responses to “Flying a “heli bike”!”

  1. mike odom says:

    kool

  2. Vinnie says:

    I wonder if a weighted flywheel would help maintain pedaling speed without so much stress on the “Human Engine”

  3. HeavyD says:

    Practical application #1: Vacuuming the entire floor

    Practical application #2: None

    : )

  4. Ron says:

    Put a Tour de France cyclist in that thing, and my bet is they’ll have no problem flying for 60 seconds. A weighted flywheel and slightly higher gearing might help get it to 10′.

  5. JonA says:

    Would someone please test that cyclist for heli-bike performance enhancing drugs.

  6. Ben Lanterman says:

    Interesting machine although it is going to be a heck of a job getting it out of ground effect. I doubt that a flywheel would help – there is already sufficient mass in the moving parts to act as a flywheel and any flywheel massive enough to give additional help would be a severe weight penalty when it comes to making the 10 ft altitude mark. I am sure they did studies of human form and getting maximum power out, etc., but the position of the rider seemed awkward. I know arm power is a nice addition to get into the power system, but if you are losing leg power in the process it might not be worth it. A powerful skinny cyclists would have really great leg strength compared to his arms. I would try to maximize the leg strength produced in the design and then go hunting for short sprint cyclists. I would make the riding position in the machine exactly like he is accustomed to having on his bike. Lots of interesting problems in the challenge!

  7. Jason says:

    Very cool effort, but I don’t see that thing breaking ground effect without some elaborate (and likely heavy, defeating the benefit) means to store an release manpower pedaling energy.

    There are two problems. First, as soon as it gets more than a foot or two off the ground the outflow from the rotor-wash creates vorticies that force downflow through the rotor disk. This greatly increases the energy required to hover. Second the higher it gets, the less air ‘cushon” there is when the downflow air runs into the ground..

    This assume that the aircraft’s lowest point much be 10′ off the ground, not the pilot..

  8. DesertDave says:

    Thanks for sharing. Great video. Love the Friday morning newsletter, nice free service for all us quirky modelers out there…..am sure I’m not the only one who appreciates it.

  9. SanJoseJose says:

    That thing ain’t getting 10 feet off the ground, no way it breaks ground effect. But I give credit, cool machine and fun to watch. Thanks for sharing……

  10. Terry Solesbee says:

    Doesn’t look like it has any control except for power.That’s the biggest exercise bike I’ve ever seen !

  11. Ted F. says:

    The wright Brothers also received negative comments. Good job, keep it going.

  12. Steve says:

    What is the point to all that work?

  13. skydvejam says:

    That is neat, a good start, the issue as several have said is it is staying in ground effect. There are several human powered planes that do quite well, but the limits proposed in this challenge are staggering. Although I am sure sometime it will be done, and this is a step in the right direction, it is going to be some time until it gets done.
    Some sort of storage device might get the job done, springs or otherwise as long as it is human powered it might just work that way.

  14. Drew says:

    The only way I can think of to test it’s actual ability to develop lift would be to suspend it from a very light cable fifty feet in the air.

    Then if the cyclist could create slack in the cable for a period of one minute then they could claim success.

  15. Fred says:

    Interesting, but there are easier ways to lift someone under there own power.

  16. David says:

    Is this a REAL film or another “fake” like the man powered flying guy flapping his so-called flex wings???
    It was caught by one of those groups looking for real and unreal.
    The blades on this did not seem to be moving very fast, fast enough, to lift anything off the ground except loose dirt.
    Get all those guys away from the center and put it out in an open field and refilm it with “no strings” attached and I may believe they even got off the ground.

  17. John Sohm says:

    Wow, it’s not hard to tell who the pessimists and people that can’t see past the end of their noses are. It’s not a matter of insignificance here. This is the type of thing that advances engineering and more importantly materials science. Does anyone here remember the Gossamer Albatros? First man powered aircraft to fly across the English Channel. Advanced a lot of technological innovations.

    Who reaps the rewards for all this? We definitely do, especially as modelers. We sure as heck wouldn’t have light weight materials for covering our planes, carbon fiber structures for our fuselages and heli frames and where do you think the technology for our electrics came from, Mother Goose? These guys are to be commended and encouraged.

    Kudos to the team that produced this milestone and best of luck in the next version, hopefully it breaks the record.

  18. Pat Ryan says:

    Keep thinking and dreaming You young pups will do it ! DOn’t give up!!

  19. marcelo says:

    kool, very nice idea, wonderfull project, m sure u will b better next time, tha world need that kind of brillant ideas and minds, sure……… don´t give up, love the video, c ya soon again.

  20. Hal H says:

    This is great! What does the structure weigh? How much mass did the cyclist lift?

    REALLY KOOL

    How much difference does ground affect make? Does ground affect double the lift capacity? Surely for light aircraft it is good to airfoils 10-feet above ground.

    University of Maryland KEEP GOING, this is superb.

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