The Boeing-backed GoFly Prize program gave out a $100,000 award during its inaugural fly-off in California, but the $1 million grand prize went unclaimed because none of the competitors could go fly.
Five teams from around the world have risen to new heights in the GoFly Prize competition, a $2 million-plus contest backed by Boeing to encourage the development of personal flying machines.
The Phase II contest winners, unveiled today in connection with the SAE AeroTech Americas conference in Charleston, S.C., will receive $50,000 prizes and the chance to compete for the $1 million grand prize in a future fly-off.
“Now we can unequivocally say we will be able to make people fly within the next one to two years,” Gwen Lighter, GoFly’s CEO and founder, told GeekWire in advance of the announcement.
“That’s typically the comment that it draws: ‘It looks like a flying saucer,’ ” the leader of the Tacoma, Wash.-based team, Stephen Tibbitts, told GeekWire. “What drove us to the shape is, we knew we wanted to maximize our wing area in the space allotted.”
The GoFly Prize was established in 2017 to encourage innovation in the development of personal air vehicles. The rules state that teams must design one-person flying machines that are capable of making vertical or near-vertical takeoffs and taking 20-mile area trips, all without refueling or recharging.
The machines can be jetpacks, or flying motorcycles, or giant quadcopters, but all of the hardware has to fit within an 8.5-foot-wide sphere. In Team Zeva’s view, a flying saucer makes the most use of that volume.
Some of the designs look like winged motorcycles. There’s a cute mini-airplane with stubby wings. And a couple of the contraptions look more like time machines than flying machines.
The diversity among the winners in the first phase of the $2 million GoFly Prize competition for personal air vehicles doesn’t faze Gwen Lighter, the program’s founder and CEO. The way she sees it, that’s what’s wonderful about the contest.
“Just like there there are many different types of cars available to drive, so too the diversity that we are seeing in the many different types of personal flying solutions that have been submitted will allow the public to be able to choose the best method for whatever they are doing at that particular moment,” she told GeekWire. “In that sense, it’s very exciting to see all the different permutations.”
For decades, if not centuries, people have been dreaming about flying free like a bird — and now there’s a $2 million contest to bring that dream closer to reality, made possible with a boost from Boeing.
Over the next two years, the GoFly Prize program aims to provide incentives for teams to develop one-person flying devices that are capable of making vertical or near-vertical takeoffs and taking 20-mile aerial trips — without refueling or recharging.
“Two years from now, we will be able to look to the sky and say, ‘Look at that person flying,’” GoFly CEO Gwen Lighter told GeekWire. Lighter, an entrepreneur based in Connecticut, has been working with NASA and other organizations for years to get GoFly off the ground.
The program was unveiled today at the SAE 2017 AeroTech Congress and Expositionin Fort Worth, Texas, kicking off a months-long registration period.