Mark Broadbent
By Mark Broadbent

Mark Broadbent is a freelance journalist specializing in aerospace and technology. He has written for numerous magazines and websites and became the assistant editor of Air International magazine 2014. He has covered a wide variety of topics across the aerospace industry spanning commercial aircraft, airline industry, unmanned, technology and historical subjects. Follow him on Twitter @mjbwriter.

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Disruptive innovation recognized, but still no winner for $1 million GoFly Prize

GoFly’s $1 million grand prize for a groundbreaking personal flying device has yet to be awarded, after the five competitors in last week’s final fly-off failed to meet the demanding conditions for the prize.

teTra Aviation team at GoFly Prize event
Although no GoFly competitors last week claimed the $1 million grand prize, Tokyo-based teTra Aviation received the $100,000 Pratt & Whitney Disruptor Award for the teTra 3. teTra Photo

The teams who assembled at Moffett Federal Airfield in California Feb. 27-29 were eligible for two $250,000 runner-up prizes as well as the $1 million grand prize, but ended up not flying.

“At the moment, no team is able to meet the requirements for the grand prize, but we are hopeful that teams may do so in the near future,” a GoFly spokesperson told eVTOL.com.

“We look forward to announcing the grand prize winner soon, and congratulate all of our teams on their innovation and inspiration.”

More than 854 teams, comprising 3,800 innovators from 103 countries, have participated in the GoFly challenge to catalyze the development of personal flying devices.

Ten teams were awarded $20,000 prizes in Phase I, with five teams later named Phase II winners and awarded $50,000 each. Although only five teams were selected for the final fly-off, two dozen exhibited their aircraft concepts at the Leap Day event.

Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society — a GoFly Prize partner organization — pointed out that it is not unusual for competitors to initially fall short in challenging technology competitions.

For example, he said, when DARPA first held its $1 million Grand Challenge for autonomous vehicles in 2004, no one completed the race and some teams barely made it over the starting line. The following year, however, five teams completed the 132-mile (212-kilometer) course — including what became Waymo.

“The GoFly Prize was designed to do something impossible,” said Hirschberg, who attended the final fly-off event. “The testing requirements, and typical trials and tribulations of performing a demonstration at a specific time and place, all added to the challenge.

“But the teams proved that it is possible. Many of them were close to achieving the goal of developing a personal flying device. I hope that they get the chance to prove it to the public in the not-too-distant future.”

Despite the lack of a Grand Prize winner, one team at Moffett last week did receive a separate prize. Tokyo-based teTra Aviation was presented with the $100,000 Pratt & Whitney Disruptor Award for “disruptive advancement” for their teTra 3 machine.

GoFly founder and CEO Gwen Lighter said, “The team displayed the technical design and creative prowess that we set out to inspire when we created the GoFly Prize. teTra created a unique personal flyer and we look forward to supporting them as they take the next steps towards revolutionizing human mobility.”

Geoff Hunt, senior vice president of engineering at Pratt & Whitney, added, “We designed the Disruptor Award to recognize the team that challenged the status quo, delivered unique thinking into a complex issue and considered safety, reliability, durability, and system integration.”

University of Tokyo doctoral student Tasuku Nakai, who captained teTra Aviation, said, “The whole team is glad to celebrate this achievement. Personal flying is the future of transportation and I know there will be a day when every person will be able to take off and land anywhere.”

Slideshow photos provided by Kenneth I. Swartz.

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