Are you ready for your Wright Brothers moment?

The $2 million GoFly Prize, sponsored by Boeing, is looking for individual innovators and teams to “create a personal flying device that is safe, useful and thrilling.” The bold design challenge is to build an easy-to-use, quiet, one-person flight device that can travel at least 20 miles without refueling/recharging and takes off and lands vertically (or near vertically).

Or as the GoFly Prize vision statement puts it, “Today we look to the sky and say ‘that plane is flying.’ We challenge you to create a device where we look to the sky and say, ‘that person is flying.’”

And if you’re not the daredevil type, the competition rules allow you to let a mannequin be your test pilot as you control it like a UAV.

“Throughout human history, perhaps no dream has been more shared than that of soaring in the skies,” the mission statement continues. “...It captivated the thoughts of Leonardo Da Vinci, culminating in his ornithopter. It consumed the thoughts of Wendell Moore and his Bell Labs team, resulting in the first ‘jet pack.’ It charmed an entire generation of children as they followed the chronicles of Superman.”

And it also charms us here at Onshape, where we’re proud to be the Exclusive CAD Software Sponsor of the GoFly Prize. All GoFly teams will be provided with Onshape Professional subscriptions as well as have Onshape’s technical support as projects soar onward.

“We have design teams and innovators from 86 countries on six continents participating in the challenge, and not every team member is in the same location,” notes GoFly CEO Gwen Lighter. “So Onshape’s ability to let everyone, everywhere immediately access their designs and easily collaborate with each other is critical for us.”

“GoFly wants to provide all of our innovators with the best in cutting-edge technology,” she adds. “Onshape will help our teams develop any new idea whenever and wherever inspiration strikes.”

How to Enter the GoFly Competition

The GoFly Prize, which has partnered with numerous aviation organizations such as the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Royal Aeronautical Society, has an April 18 Phase I submission deadline for a written report and preliminary drawing. The report is judged on technical content and feasibility, novel innovation and market considerations, safety considerations, project execution feasibility and organization. Up to 10 prizes of $20,000 for this conceptual phase will be announced in the late spring/early summer. Entry details are available here.

There’s a bit more runway for Phase II, the proof-of-concept phase, which has a December 8, 2018 registration deadline and a February 6, 2019 delivery date. In this stage, where CAD comes into play, teams must provide documentary proof that a prototype, demonstrator or the device itself has flown and successfully performed the following maneuvers:

  • Vertical or near-vertical takeoff followed by steady flight out of ground effect
  • Aborted landing
  • Vertical or near-vertical landing

You do not have to participate in Phase I to compete in Phase II.

Phase III is the “Final Fly-Off,” which is scheduled for October 2019. More details on the fly-off and its qualification criteria are available here.

The Next Evolution of Flight


Who Will Be The Next Pioneers of Flight? - In 1902, the Wright Brothers tested their glider as a precursor to motorized aircraft. Will personal flight devices one day make airplanes obsolete?

You don’t need to have the budget of Elon Musk or Tony Stark to try to develop a personal flying machine. Indeed, the GoFly Prize notes that “recent advances in propulsion, energy, light-weight materials, and control and stability systems have combined to produce a moment of achievable innovation.”

On a broader scope, the development of electric motors, self-driving cars, 3D metal printing and more powerful batteries have spurred an explosion of investment in alternative aircraft right now. Bloomberg Businessweek gives this quick rundown:

“The field of flying cars, air taxis, or whatever you want to call them (Sky Segways?) is a lot more crowded than it was even a couple of years ago. Larry Page, the CEO of Google parent Alphabet Inc., has pumped tens of millions of dollars into startups Kitty Hawk and Zee.Aero. A dozen other startups around the world have similar projects at various stages of design, as do Airbus SE and Boeing Co. Even Uber Technologies Inc. claims to be working on an air taxi service, tentatively called Uber Elevate.”

Whatever form the one-person flying devices take in the competition is a blank slate right now, says GoFly’s Lighter.

“Whether it is a jetpack, flying motorcycle, flying car, flying platform – or a different kind of design we haven’t imagined yet – is completely up to our innovators,” she says. “They will create what they believe is the best solution. We’re looking forward to seeing what they come up with.”

So if you’re stressed out over bumper-to-bumper traffic during your daily commute, please be patient. Your chance to fly solo to work may only be a few years away!

(Skydiver photo at the top of this blog was taken by Filipe Dos Santos Mendes.)