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Boeing offers $1 million prize for inventing a personal flying machine

Enlarge / The Flyboard Air is a personal flying machine that was unveiled in 2016.

Boeing is offering $2 million in prizes—along with a $1 million prime prize—to inventors of “safe, quiet, ultra-compact, near-VTOL personal flying devices in a position to flying 20 miles whereas carrying a single explicit individual.” VTOL stands for vertical take-off and landing, which signifies that Boeing is looking for one factor additional distinctive than a standard ultralight airplane. Boeing is true that there’s potential for technological breakthroughs proper right here, nonetheless on the planet of aviation, $1 million doesn’t get you very far.

The idea of personal flying machines is hardly new. Non-public jetpacks have existed since at least the 1960s. Nevertheless they’ve on a regular basis had excessive fluctuate and safety limitations, stopping them from becoming extensively used.

In current occasions, however, there’s been some sign that that is prone to be altering. Some people have continued refining jet-pack know-how. One inventor has been dubbed the British Iron Man for his rocket swimsuit, whereas an experimental jet-powered hoverboard often known as the FlyBoard Air was unveiled last yr (it costs $250,000 and isn’t however obtainable to most individuals).

Nevertheless the true different for personal transportation utilized sciences is prone to be throughout the realm of personal drones. The similar technological traits which may be on the cusp of revolutionizing the auto commerce—additional extremely efficient electrical motors, batteries, and software program program—are moreover starting to affect the aviation industry.

A key innovation proper right here is the utilization of numerous propellers—four, eight, or far more—barely than just one or two as you see on a standard helicopter. This design has been made doable by additional extremely efficient batteries and lighter electrical motors, nonetheless it has moreover been enabled by greater software program program. A quadcopter may very well be troublesome for a human being to pilot if she wanted to manually administration the flexibility outfitted to each motor the best way through which a pilot does on a standard airplane. As an alternative, quadcopters and completely different stylish electrical airplane have software program program that handles these low-level particulars routinely.

That makes these autos safer and additional safe since redundant batteries and propellers allow them to land gracefully even when some components malfunction. New utilized sciences moreover create the potential of a model new know-how of autos that folk can safely fly with rather a lot a lot much less teaching than is required for a standard helicopter or small airplane.

This yr, a startup funded by Google’s Larry Internet web page often known as Kitty Hawk unveiled a type of flying jet ski which will carry a single passenger aloft over our our bodies of water. Quite a few completely different startups—along with LiliumJoby Aviation, and EHang—are engaged on all-electric, short-range autos which will take off and land vertically. Uber has daring plans to assemble a group of small electrical flying machines for intracity transportation.

Whereas the idea aviation doesn’t seem crazy, there are extreme causes to doubt that people throughout the Boeing opponents can be those to crack this technological nut. A large one is the scale of the prize. One million is a tiny amount of money throughout the aviation world. Larry Internet web page has reportedly spent $100 million on Kitty Hawk, and a number of other different VTOL airplane startups have raised tens of tens of hundreds of thousands of in enterprise capital. You in all probability have an thought for a viable personal flying machine, that idea is worth far more than $1 million, and likewise you is prone to be greater off going straight to enterprise capitalists.

Alternatively, not all people has ready entry to enterprise capital money, so the Boeing opponents could current an opportunity to an individual or small group to convey revolutionary design ideas to an even bigger viewers. Under the competitors pointers, inventors retain rights to their improvements, leaving them free to commercialize them after the competitors is over.

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