The first controlled flight of a human powered helicopter. A University team are attempting to make history as the first people ever to fly a human-powered helicopter. While basic planes without engines have been launched by humans for decades
, no one in the world has yet found a way to make a pedal-powered helicopter stay in the air for more than a few seconds.
And after two years of gruelling work, 50 engineers from the University of Maryland are set tomorrow to launch their creation for the first time.
If they succeed in keeping the helicopter off the ground for a minute and manage to get it to rise to a height of three metres, they will win a prestigious award of $250,000 and make history by becoming the first people ever to achieve the feat.
The Sikorsky Prize was established in 1980 by the American Helicopter Society to encourage people to strive to achieve the first controlled flight of a human powered helicopter.
No one has yet won the prize but a Japanese team of engineers have come closest, flying their helicopter in 1994 for 19.46 seconds at a height of eight inches.
It is so difficult to achieve flight with a human-powered helicopter because they do not have a fixed wing, like planes.
By pedalling, pilots can gather enough thrust to overcome the drag holding them back and lift forward into the air. But because helicopters take off by going up, rather than forward, thrust alone is not enough.
Dr Antonio Filipponee, from the UK\'s University of Manchester, said: \'With the fixed wing, you need essentially to provide the thrust to overcome the drag, whilst lift is generated by the wings.
\'With the helicopter you\'ve got them both. If you want to go forward... you have to try lift yourself and the weight of the machine. So the amount of force you need to create is at least 15 times bigger than the fixed wing aeroplane. So that\'s a huge challenge.\'
The University of Maryland\'s helicopter, named Gamera, is a huge 60 foot long and each rotor is 42 feet in diameter.