“In developing countries, we have nonexistent or inadequate terrestrial infrastructure, and in developed cities we have creaking terrestrial infrastructure that can’t keep up with the demands of society,” he said. “It begs for something to get things up in the air. Whether it’s packages, cargo, people, we’re going to have to use the space that’s above us to meet those needs.”
The GoFly competition is taking place in three phases, with the final “flyoff” scheduled for 2019. The 10 winners of the first phase, who submitted their designs on paper, were announced on Thursday. More than 100 entries were submitted, and the winning teams each received $20,000.
Some of the designs looked like giant airboats. Others looked more like motorcycles with propellers attached. One looked like a miniature airplane.
Contest guidelines specified that the devices had to be quiet, compact and able to carry a single person at least 20 miles without refueling. Also, the website said, “the invention should be user-friendly and, of course, provide the thrill of flight.” All the applicants, according to Ms. Lighter, made safety a priority.
Texas A&M University had one of the winning submissions, essentially an open pilot’s capsule, shaped like an egg, with rotor blades mounted near the base.
Moble Benedict, a professor of aerospace engineering at the university, said the design was meant to maximize the pilot’s field of vision and make the machine easy to handle.
“We want a regular person to be able to fly this thing with minimum flight training,” he said. “We have designed the control system in a way that’s very stable, and it’s easy enough to be flown by a novice pilot or even a regular person.”