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.


GoFly Prize set to be awarded on Leap Day

This week sees the culmination of the GoFly competition for personal flying devices, in a final fly-off with a $1 million cash prize at stake.

Silverwing prepares for GoFly Prize
Team Silverwing prepares its S1 personal air vehicle for the GoFly Prize final fly-off. Silverwing Photo

Five teams will compete Feb. 27-29 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, to win the Boeing-sponsored grand prize.

The competitors are: Aeroxo with the ERA Aviabike; Dragonair Aviation with the Airboard 2.0; Silverwing with the S1; Texas A&M Harmony with the Aria; and Trek Aerospace Inc with the FlyKart2.

There are additional awards for the quietest entry ($250,000), smallest entry ($250,000), and the Pratt & Whitney Disruptor Prize ($100,000) for “disruptive advancement.”

The GoFly competition intends to encourage the development of a safe, quiet, ultra-compact, and “near-VTOL” flying machine that can transport a single person for 20 miles (32 kilometers) without refueling or recharging.

Of more than 3,500 innovators from 101 countries to have taken part in the two-year competition, 31 teams from 16 countries submitted documentation detailing their prototypes for review by an expert panel, which selected the shortlist for the final round.

Judging criteria in the fly-off are performance; the ability to achieve near-vertical take-off and landing; quietness; compactness; and what organizers describe as “the experience of open-air flight.”

Scores in each of these categories will be amassed in two separate phases: tech inspection and flight demonstration.

According to information published by GoFly, tech inspection involves each team presenting their vehicle in “flight-ready condition at fully fueled weight.” Entries must conform to the submitted design and have completed previous documented and logged testing.

Tech inspection also involves each system scored on its size. Teams are further required to demonstrate their vehicle, unpowered and unoccupied by the operator, can be moved from one ground location to another over a level hard surface.

For the flight demonstration, devices must complete a single flight in a 30-foot (nine-meter) diameter take-off and landing envelope, defined on the ground by large “bricks” arranged approximately every 24 inches (60 centimeters) and stood upright. Systems must take off and climb, and descend and land, within this zone without violating the boundary or knocking over one of the bricks.

Speed will be tested during six laps of a one-nautical-mile (1.8-kilometer) course, with a score calculated by dividing the nominal course length by the total time taken to complete the course.

Systems will have to perform a touch-and-go, which must begin and end above 12 feet (3.6 m) over the ground and involve “momentary” contact with the ground inside the take-off/landing zone. The device must be designed so aborting a landing is possible with or without first touching the ground, the technical details say.

Systems must show greater than 20 minutes’ operating endurance, and sensors at six locations equidistant from the center of the take-off/landing envelope will measure noise, with the rating calculated by taking the mean of the highest three of these values.

Emergency reserves for an additional 10 minutes of flight and a landing will be demonstrated by calculating fuel consumed during the demonstration flight against fuel remaining. Fully electric devices must provide another means to demonstrate the full emergency reserve capability.

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