If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming Iron Man in a flying suit or being taken home in an airborne taxi, your dreams may become a reality in the near future. Major companies and start-ups are jumping into the human aviation race to be among the first to make flying humans a reality. From flying in a hovercraft to being beamed up by a jet pack, take a look at some of the latest technology promising to help humans take flight.
Panama Beach-based company, DragonAir Aviation was named one of the finalists in Boeing’s international GoFly competition. The grand prize for the competition is $1 million dollars and the team from DragonAir hopes to bring it home with the launch of their Airboard 2.0. The Airboard 2.0 is a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that is battery powered. When you imagine the Airboard, picture a drone that you can actually fly on. The Airboard has been in the development stages for the past three years at Tech Farms which is an incubator for startups in Panama City Beach. Currently, the Airboard can go 10 to 15 feet in the air and remain flying for around five minutes. The hope is that this not only becomes something people use on weekends or over the water while on vacation but eventually as a flying car. The goal of the company is to make a product that would allow people to island hop in minutes or take the aircraft to your desired location without touching the ground.
The final fly off of the competition will take place in February 2020. The final teams will have 10 months to finalize their designs and prepare. Each team is given a GoFly mentor to help them prepare as well. The devices will be tested through an obstacle course and the competition will be televised internationally. The DragonAir team beat out over 800 initial applicants to the competition and hopes to bring home the winning title in 2020.
The Human Drone
Launching their first autonomous drone, the Chinese company, Ehang could be making history with the push of a button. From Boeing to small start-ups, Ehang is one of the many trying to be the first to go to market with their computer-controlled human flying machine that can serve as an airborne taxi. With over 40 successful journeys under their belt, the Chinese company could be ahead of U.S. and European counterparts competing to make similar hovercrafts. The human drone from Ehang is said to be able to reach speeds of over 80 miles per hour. While not all of their testing with dummies has been successful, the company feels confident in their recent flight progress with humans and has shown a substantial amount of innovation in the industry. Despite the quickly changing technology, aircraft regulators are racing to catch up. There is little to no regulation out there for electric aircraft in comparison to propeller airplanes and jetliners. The company is currently in the process of securing partnerships for a self-flying taxi service and is hoping to announce commercial releases and pricing to the public in the near future.
A Real-Life Jet Pack
The latest design from JetPack Aviation will have you suited up like a superhero preparing for battle. If this is something you’re into, a personal jet pack will set you back around $340,000. The pack uses six small engines placed in a backpack that weighs 90 pounds. The system is equipped with handgrips to help you control your height and speed, and gimbal-mounted engines to allow you to navigate forward, backward or sideways with ease. The jet pack can go as high as 10,000 feet for a trained jet pack pilot with the use of oxygen. In the U.S. regulators categorize jet packs in the same way they do a small aircraft that can fly lower and away from urban areas. You can take a flying lesson from David Mayman one of the jet pack inventors for around $50,000 or you can enjoy a personal one-day crash course for $4,950. You can fly for about 10 minutes in the suit depending on your weight. The company boasts speeds of up to 200 miles per hour is possible but the system currently hovers around 30 miles per hour safely. When regulation has been worked out, the company hopes to expand and you may be seeing more humans flying in the near future.
The Sky Is The Limit
Whether you’re a lavishly rich tycoon looking for a weekend toy or an aviation enthusiast hoping to be a part of a new era of human innovation, there are hundreds of companies out there racing to make history. The flying hovercraft from Hammacher Schlemmer can drive over the water and fly in the air up to 70 miles per hour. The 130 horsepower engine drives the propeller while the lift fan inflates the vinyl skirt for hovering over the ground. It will cost you around $190,000 but you can be gliding and flying over the water in style. Tech companies in Silicone Valley, international aviation start-ups, and mega-corporations such as Boeing are all trying to be the first to commercialize human hovercrafts, jet packs, and airborne taxis. When it comes to commercializing these human flying machines, regulators and aviation experts are racing to keep up with the technology. Where human flying is concerned, the sky is the limit.