We're not anywhere near a future where you hop on your bicycle and pedal to your destination through the very air, but a team of students from the University of Maryland have captured that idea, if only for a short time. It took a huge contraption to do it, but one pedaling person was able to hover.
The craft developed by the Marylander's is pretty big — it takes up a whole room, in fact. Called Gamera II, it's got a carbon fiber lattice-work frame connecting four big rotors — each 42 feet across — and has a total width of 105 feet. Even still, it's only 71 pounds, and just one person pedaling was enough to lift Gamera II off of the ground for 50 seconds during a test flight yesterday.
Wired's Jason Paur reports that the team was able to get off the ground for 11 seconds with their first Gamera pedal-craft last year. The Gamera II is lighter, and if the team can keep it aloft for a solid minute, it will be able to win the Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Competition, which carries a $250,000 prize purse. There are two other considerations, though: it will need to hover 3 meters off of the ground during that time, and stay within a same 10-square-meter range. Nailing that height will be an issue for Gamera II: it currently hovers at around 2 feet.
You can see one of the Gamera II test flights, which lasted 40 seconds, in the video below. The University of Maryland team still hopes to hit that 60-second target. They improved upon their design last year by making it over 30 pounds lighter, as well as adding hand cranks to supplement the pedal power.