GoFly Enters Phase II
By Kenneth I. Swartz
The goal of the GoFly Prize is to foster the development of safe, quiet, ultra-compact, near-VTOL personal flying devices capable of flying twenty miles while carrying a single person. Here’s the story so far, nine months into the two-year competition.
On June 14, the GoFly Prize announced the 10 award recipients after its Phase I competition.
The GoFly Prize — a two-year, three-phase, $2M competition sponsored by The Boeing Company — has inspired teams of students, engineers and entrepreneurs around the world to “push the envelope” by designing an innovative vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft capability of carrying one occupant 20 miles (32 km) at a speed of at least 30 kt (56 km/h) without refueling or recharging (see “Ready. Set. GoFly!,” Vertiflite, Nov/ Dec 2017). To make things even more challenging, the personal flying devices must have maximum dimensions of no more than 8.5 ft (2.6 m) and have a noise level less than 85 dBA, when measured 50 ft (15 m) away.
Launched in September 2017, the GoFly Prize was designed to prove that it’s technologically possible to develop a compact VTOL aircraft with near- impossible range and performance capabilities.
More than 600 innovators from 95 countries submitted 164 aircraft design concepts to GoFly by the Phase I deadline of April 18. A panel of 97 industry experts (including many VFS members) then carefully evaluated each submission in accordance with official technical guidelines (available on www.GoFlyPrize.com).
Although Phase II is open to any competitor who registers, the 10 Phase I awardees — hailing from Japan, Latvia, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States — each received $20,000 to advance their designs during Phase II, the building phase. These 10 designs resemble hoverbikes, passenger drones and more radical concepts.
The awarded designs are as follows.
1. Aeroxo — ERA Aviabike (Latvia) Aeroxo LV described the ERA Aviabike as “a tiltrotor aerial vehicle type that combines VTOL capabilities of [a] helicopter with range and speed of [a] fixed-wing aircraft.” The design features a motorcycle- style seat with eight tilting ducted fans mounted in front of the pilot and eight more behind the pilot.
2. Georgia Institute of Technology — HummingBuzz (Georgia, USA) The students and faculty of Georgia Tech said their HummingBuzz design “utilizes the fully electric, ducted coaxial rotor configuration, with the fuselage on top, in the shape of a motorcycle.”
3. Leap — Vantage (UK) The UK’s Leap team described its hybrid-electric Vantage as a “five-rotor airbike that is ridden like a motorcycle.”
4. Pennsylvania State University — BlueSparrow (Pennsylvania, USA) Students and faculty at Penn State Aerospace Engineering “designed Blue Sparrow to be scalable, robust, safe, and fun to fly.” The aircraft features a small cab with three pairs of overhead coaxial propellers.
5. Scoop — Pegasus I (US) The Pegasus is a “Y6 tiltrotor with a wing and a hybrid powertrain with a cruise speed of 70 knots.” It has two stub wings and three pairs of tilting coaxial propellers mounted at the rear and to either side of the pilot.
6. Silverwing — S1 (Netherlands) The Dutch designers said the tailsitter has “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.”
7. teTra Aviation — teTra 3 (Tokyo, Japan) The teTra 3 features two ducted propellers positioned below the pilot with two additional vectored thrust propellers to the rear. The Japanese designers are supported by iRobotics and the University of Tokyo.
8. Texas A&M University — Harmony (Texas, USA) “Harmony is a high-TRL compact rotorcraft designed to minimize noise and maximize efficiency, safety, reliability, and flight experience,” the team said. The aircraft has counter-rotating propellers near the bottom of the egg-shaped chassis with a wheeled landing gear.
9. Trek Aerospace — FlyKart 2 (California, USA) The team said, “FlyKart 2 is a single-seat, open-cockpit, 10-rotor, ducted fan, electrically-powered, VTOL aircraft.” Trek has designed the device for a maximum speed of 55 kt (100 km/h) and a cruise endurance of more than 30 minutes.
10. University of Kansas — Mamba (Kansas, USA) The Mamba is “a hexcopter emphasizing safety, certifiability, and performance. Shrouded rotors and a tilting empennage are incorporated.” The design features two large and two small shrouded fans for lift and a pair of thrusters at the rear.
The deadline to register for Phase II is Dec. 8, 2018, with submissions due Feb. 6, 2019. At the conclusion of Phase II, GoFly will award up to four $50,000 prizes to existing or new teams in the competition. These four teams, and any other compliant designs, will receive invitations to participate in the fly-off competition. One of the requirements to fly is demonstration of significant safety margins.
Finally, in October 2019, GoFly will hold a fly-off competition of the top VTOL aircraft designs. The fly-off will consist of two phases: tech inspection and flight demonstration. Various scored and unscored attributes will be measured or validated during each phase. The parameters scored will be size, noise and speed.
A total of $1.6M in fly-off prizes are planned:
- A $1M Grand Prize awarded for the best compliant overall fly-off score;
- $250,000 for the quietist compliant entry;
- $250,000 for the smallest compliant entry, and;
- $100,000 for disruptive advancement of the state of the art.
The GoFly Prize builds on a long history of competitions designed to drive innovation and kick-start futuristic technologies.
GoFly is the first international passenger-carrying VTOL prize competition since the Vertical Flight Society’s own Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition established in 1980. In July 2013, the Society awarded the $250,000 AHS Sikorsky Prize to Aerovelo, a team of University of Toronto students and alumni (see Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2013 or www.vtol.org/aerovelo).
Aerovelo was led by engineers Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, who moved to the US in 2016 to advance the development of the Kitty Hawk Flyer (see “Kitty Hawk Flyer Enters Service,” Vertiflite July/August 2018 pg. 30). To find out more about the GoFly Prize competitors and other personal flying devices, go to www.eVTOL.news/hover-bikes.