While a number of inventors have brought the idea of a jetpack closer to reality, with one even flying around the Statue of Liberty in a demonstration, the idea of personal flight remains a pipe dream for most of us. Boeing has had enough of the dreaming, and is putting up US$2 million in prize money to encourage bright ideas around building and designing an easy-to-use personal flying device.
The GoFly prize follows a similar blueprint to the XPrize competitions and the Hyperloop Global Challenge, in that it tasks anyone who is willing and able to come up with technological concepts that would move humanity forward in a big way. But rather than moon landings, artificial intelligence or pods that travel at the speed of sound, Boeing is chasing a dream that has crossed most minds at some point – the ability to fly from point A to point B entirely on your own.
Hobbyists, engineers, inventors, students and thinkers are invited to submit their ideas for personal flying devices that can be flown by anyone, anywhere, be they elderly rural folk or young people living in the city. It says that recent advances in energy, materials, propulsion and flight technologies mean the time is ripe to make the leap. The design of the personal flying vehicle and how it is propelled is completely open, but it must be capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), or close to it, and be able to carry a single person 20 miles (32 km) without refueling or recharging.
The only criteria in terms of the design is that the vehicle is made for one person and is therefore lightweight and maneuverable, that it can be flown safely in both crowded and rural areas, and operates quietly to keep annoyances to a minimum. Greg Hyslop, Boeing's Chief Technology Officer, says it could take the form of a jetpack, a personal drone or even a motorcycle in the sky.
To be played out over three phases, the first stage of the competition requires teams to submit written reports outlining the technical specifications of their concepts, with ten US$20,000 prizes to be awarded to the winning entries. From those, up to four $50,000 prizes will be handed out in phase two based on revisions to phase one material, ahead of the grand finale, a final fly-off in October 2019 with a $1 million prize up for grabs.
The fly-off competitors will be judged based on performance, VTOL capabilities, quietness, compactness and the flight experience for the user. Though the vehicles must have the capability to carry a person, entrants will be able to demonstrate this with a mannequin and either operate the device remotely or have it do its own thing autonomously.
The deadline for the first phase of the GoFly competition is April 4, 2018. You can check out the promo video below.