The $250,000 Sikorsky prize was created in 1980 to commemorate Igor Sikorsky, a helicopter pioneer. It has been offered to those that can stay aloft for 60 seconds at at least 3 meters of altitude in a human-powered machine.
In 1994, a Japanese team was able to build a human-powered machine. They managed to stay in the air for a full 19 seconds. This record remained untarnished until Thursday, June 21, 2012 when a team from Maryland put their human-powered helicopter, named Gamora II, to the test. They hovered in the air for 50 seconds. It is an astonishing feat, but it wasn’t enough to win the quarter million dollar prize. Not only was its air time not long enough but it also did not meet the altitude requirement.
Gamora II weighs 71 pounds, which is 30 pounds less than its predecessor. It works with arm and leg pedals to generate energy to power the machine. The Maryland team are still working on claiming the Sikorsky prize, but so is Atlas, a private team that just finished a campaign to raise funds for research and materials. Good luck to everyone invelved. When this goal is achieved, it will certainly be a momentous occasion.