A University of Maryland student team has once again achieved new aviation heights, this time by successfully lifting a helicopter and passenger through solar power only.

The UMD Gamera Team seemed to raise the bar for a long time on end. In 2014, a new group of undergraduate students took over Team Gamera, reinventing itself as Solar Gamera to test the feasibility of applying solar power in achieving human helicopter flight.

Ph.D. candidate William Staruk, a member of Gamera's Human-Powered Helicopter Team proclaimed "Today you are seeing the first successful flights of the Gamera Solar-Powered Helicopter. You are seeing aviation history being made in the history of green aviation and rotary blade aviation." With Materials Science major Michelle Mahon in the cockpit, Solar Gamera achieved two successful flights, flying for 9 seconds and gaining more than a foot of height.

While electronic controls offer an advantage over Gamera's human-powered predecessor, the challenge of lifting a 100-foot square rotorcraft solely through solar power has posed its own unique set of challenges. The craft may never engage in long-distance flight, but through this project's immense hands-on opportunities, students can hone their engineering chops and find focus for their future.