We live in a world where formerly unattainable futuristic touchstones like “flying cars” and autonomous vehicles are being treated with straight-faced sincerity by some of the biggest companies in world. So I guess it was only a matter of time before we had to start taking jetpacks seriously, too.
A new two-year, $2 million global competition called the Go Fly Prize was introduced today at an aerospace industry conference in Texas with the goal of producing “an easy-to-use, personal flying device.” The organizers of the contest, which is being sponsored by aerospace giant Boeing, say they want to incentivize teams of students, engineers, and inventors to develop a vertical take-off and landing device (or one that is nearly VTOL) that is safe, quiet, ultra-compact, and capable of carrying a single person 20 miles or more without refueling or recharging. In other words, a jetpack that can be “used by anyone, anywhere,” Go Fly’s organizers say.
Jetpacks aren’t a completely fanciful idea, with daredevils demonstrating amazing aeronautical feats in the US and across the world. But the idea that jetpacks have commercial applications or that personal flying devices will solve our transportation and infrastructure challenges is completely ludicrous.