Exemplified by superheroes and jetpacks in movies, humans have always fantasized about the ability to fly. In an effort to make this childhood dream a reality, Boeing is sponsoring a two-year GoFly competition to create the first safe and simple personal flying device.
The organizers of the GoFly Prize contest are excited to encourage teams of students, scientists, professors, inventors and engineers to develop a “vertical take-off and landing device” that can safely transport a human 20 miles or more on a single tank of fuel or battery charge.
“The GoFly Prize is about making the impossible possible,” said Gwen Lighter, CEO and Founder of GoFly.
There is perhaps no dream more universally shared than that of soaring through the skies. It unites us all. Dreamt by young and old, man and woman, city-dwellers and people in remote parts of our globe, we share this innate desire to fly.
Although personal flight is very appealing to the fantasy mind, Lighter said that this project is really about the future of transportation.
“We’re at the brink of a major shift in the way we travel from one place to another,” she said. “There has never been more activity or excitement in this space, and now is the first time in history when personal flying devices can be built. We want to inspire the innovation to make that shift happen.”
The competition is open to everyone and is separated into three steps.
In the first step, GoFly will require teams to submit detailed project proposals by April 18, 2018. GoFly will then select the best 10 proposals and award those teams with $20,000.
In the second step, GoFly will ask teams to develop working prototypes by Feb. 6, 2019. The teams will then have to demonstrate each machine’s ability to vertically take-off and land. GoFly will award $50,000 to the best four teams.
The third and final step will have teams competing in a “fly-off” in September 2019 for the $1 million prize. Teams will be judged based on how safe, quiet, and small their devices are.
Additional prizes of $250,000 each will be awarded to the teams that develop the smallest device and the quietest device. There will also be a $100,000 prize for the team that wins the “disruptive advancement of the state of the art” category.
“GoFly hopes to catalyze a future where we use these personal flying devices to get around,” said Lighter. “At the end of our two-year competition, we hope to have not only new technology but also the start of a whole new personal flying device industry.”
According to Lighter, there have been many recent technological breakthroughs that enable the development of personal flight devices.
“There are the autonomy systems we see in the automotive industry’s self-driving cars, the increased performance of batteries and capacitors, and advances in lightweight materials,” she said. “There are the stability and control systems from the drone world, and 3D printing and other types of rapid prototyping that open up the world of innovation to a broader spectrum of developers, makers, and engineers across the globe.”
All of these factors together give researchers the tools they need to develop the first personal flying device.
Although there is great excitement and confidence surrounding this competition, there is no guarantee that GoFly’s call will be answered in the next two years. There are many technological challenges that could still disrupt the creation of a device, and regulatory decisions that must be made.
But Lighter and GoFly are confident that “those issues will be solved.”
“It took only a few years for serious conversations to progress around low-altitude drones,” Lighter said. “The same will happen here and we will work through it. The aviation industry was built on the premise of solving problems that did not previously exist.”
Boeing is the primary sponsor of the competition, but many more companies and organizations with an interest in flight are also involved.