One of these 10 flying cars might be your future ride

The GoFly challenge has just announced 10 winning flying-car designs. It’s the first phase of a three-part contest, and they’re very cool.

Care for a lift? (Credit: Marcello Brivio/Big Think)

Remember the future? That was that time when each of us would navigate our own personal aircraft through three-dimensional lanes of commuter traffic. It’s a dream that goes way, way back: In November 1933, when Eugene Vidal (Gore’s father) was working for Franklin Roosevelt’s Commerce Department, he proposed awarding $1 million to anyone who could invent a flying car, a $700 “poor man’s airplane.” No one could. It seemed plausible, but the technology just wasn’t there. Still, it was a dream many of us have shared, prompted by sci-fi and having watched rocket packs shudder upward and away while lusting after something more akin to K’s sleek spinner in Blade Runner 2049. Like many of us, Gwen Lighter, the CEO and founder of the GoFly competition, has been fascinated with flight and its pioneers since childhood.


So, I continued to read about hero innovators and their breakthrough technologies, and I began focusing on recent advances in control and stability systems, propulsion, lightweight materials, energy, and rapid prototyping. I realized that the convergence of these breakthrough technologies would open up innovation to engineers around the globe. That was when I knew that we had reached the technological moment when we had the ability to make that childhood dream of personal flight a reality. That was the moment that GoFly was born.

She’s referring to the GoFly Challenge, a three-phase competition sponsored by Boeing meant to spur—at long last—the development of our flying cars, or flying bikes. Whatever, we’re not choosy. Never mind for the moment the climate imperative of transitioning away from private vehicles and toward more environmentally benign mass transit solutions. Never mind moving road rage into mid-air. This is the long-promised future of our past beckoning, and there’s undeniably cool science involved.

The GoFly organization includes a number of aviation experts on hand to mentor and assist design teams throughout the competition. In addition, with entry into the contest comes certain benefits, including—let’s face it, they need it—insurance.

The shape of the contest

The goal of the GoFly challenge is to design and ultimately deploy a vehicle that meets certain requirements. It must be:

  • safe
  • quiet
  • ultra-compact
  • be a near-vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) device
  • be capable of flying 20 miles while carrying a single person.

The contest is structured into three distinct phases, with prizes awarded at each level.

Phase I

Up to ten $20,000 prizes awarded based on a written report. These are the winners recently announced.

Phase II

Up to four $50,000 prizes awarded based on revised Phase I material (or for new teams new Phase I material) and demonstrated performance of progress to date.

Phase III, AKA “The Fly-off”

This is when the vehicles actually take to the sky, with four prizes awarded:

  • One $1,000,000 Grand Prize awarded for the best compliant overall fly-off score.
  • One $250,000 prize for the quietest compliant entry.
  • One $250,000 prize for the smallest compliant entry.
  • One $100,000 prize for disruptive advancement of the state of the art.

The GoFly first-round winners and their flying cars

Here they are in alphabetical order by design team, along with their nation of origin.

Team’s description: ERA Aviabike is a tilt rotor aerial vehicle type that combines VTOL capabilities of helicopter with range and speed of fixed-wing aircraft.

From: Latvia

Team’s description: Students and faculty at Penn State University Aerospace Engineering designed Blue Sparrow to be scalable, robust, safe, and fun to fly.

From: United States

Team’s description: HummingBuzz utilizes the fully electric, ducted coaxial rotor configuration, with the fuselage on top, in the shape of a motorcycle.

From: United States

Team’s description: Vantage is a five-rotor airbike.

From: United Kingdom

Team’s description: The Mamba is a hexcopter emphasizing safety, certifiability, and performance. Shrouded rotors and a tilting empennage are incorporated.

From: United States

Team’s description: The Pegasus is a Y6 tilt rotor with a wing and a hybrid powertrain with a cruise speed of 70 knots.

From: United States

Team’s description: This device is a canard-wing configuration around a person in motorcycle-like orientation powered by two electric motors with ducted rotors. The aircraft makes a 90 degree transition from vertical take-off to horizontal cruise flight.

From: Netherlands

Team’s description: teTra 3 is not only efficient enough, but also stylish enough to meet commercial requirements.

From: Japan

Team’s description: Harmony is a high-TRL compact rotorcraft designed to minimize noise and maximize efficiency, safety, reliability, and flight experience.

From: United States

Team’s description: FlyKart 2 is a single-seat, open-cockpit, 10-rotor, ducted fan, electrically-powered, VTOL aircraft.

From: United States

Getting off the ground

These designs show an exhilarating degree of ingenuity, smarts, and energy. There are some amazingly out-of-the-box ideas here. Of course, Phase I is just the opening round. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less

Sexual activity linked to higher cognitive function in older age

A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.

The results of this one-of-a-kind study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men.
Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
  • The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
  • The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…