This is the coolest thing you will see on the Internet Friday: Some bright whipper snappers at the University of Maryland — they are engineering students, which makes them possibly smarter than you and I— have managed to build and fly a massive helicopter powered by someone essentially pedaling a bike. It is called Gamera II, which translates to “Flying Turtle” in Japanese. They flew a turtle!
It’s a surprise that the thing even gets off the ground, at least just from the look of it. The pedal-powered Gamera II is a massive frame of narrow tubing and strings that create an intricate structure supporting four rotors sitting on opposite ends of each other. It weighs some 70 pounds—33 percent lighter than its predecessor—and takes up about the same amount of space as a Boeing 737. It’s not really much to look at, really, and one could be forgiven for thinking that it wouldn’t work.
PhD student Colin Gore was the pilot. What was that like?
Gore, who weighs in at a mere 135 pounds and was chosen for his power-to-weight ratio, spoke to us about piloting the Gamera II: “There are no pilot-operated controls on the vehicle per se, but I’ve noticed that I need to pedal extremely smoothly and steadily to minimize the drifting of the vehicle and to minimize the stress on all the parts. I trained for about a year and a half in that recumbent position with arm and leg cranks, and that was definitely the key to my steadiness,” he said.
“The responsiveness of the craft is otherworldly. I can fine tune the height relatively easily within a fraction of a second by adjusting my pedaling cadence. As a result, landing is straightforward as well. When I reduce cadence slightly, I return Earthward gently, then ramp down gradually until the craft is at rest,” he added.
I’m feeling pretty inadequate right now. I can’t even make a paper airplane fly.