Boeing Sponsors Global Contest in Search of Consumer-Grade Jetpack Technology

Jetpacks are often considered to be a thing of the future. In fact, we may never see consumer-grade jetpacks in our lifetime. Boeing certainly thinks there are people out there right now who are capable of building such devices with current technology and materials. In this regard, it’s not entirely surprising to see the company offer US$2 million to anyone building a functional jetpack. That’s a very different take on flying vehicles, to say the least.

Boeing Wants a Functional Jetpack

While the rest of the world is still trying to wrap their heads around flying cars, Boeing is already looking for the next big thing. Giving consumers ways to transport themselves by air in a convenient package is not as easy as it may sound. There is no real technology to make humans fly, other than using flying vehicles of some type. A wingsuit is perhaps the closest thing to humans emulating flight we have seen so far.

Thankfully, there are other options to explore as well. Although it is increasingly unlikely we would ever be able to flap our arms and lift off the ground, a jetpack is perhaps an acceptable replacement in this regard. That is, assuming someone can effectively build one for commercial purposes. Boeing certainly seems to think there are some mad scientists out there who can pull this off over the next two years. The winner of its “Go Fly Prize” will receive a US$2 million paycheck.

The ultimate goal for Boeing is to mass-produce convenient and easy-to-use flying devices. It’s much easier said than done, even though some hobbyists have been experimenting with building their own jetpacks for quite some time now. By actively incentivizing engineers, investors, and students to build a vertical take-off and landing device, interesting concepts will be put forward over the next 24 months. That doesn’t guarantee we will see a working jetpack during this period, though.

Contrary to what one would expect, the purpose of this competition is not to build short-distance jetpacks by any means. The winning design should be able to carry one person over a distance of at least 20 miles without the need to refuel. Any jetpack currently in existence isn’t capable of reaching that distance, although it is only a matter of time until that situation changes in a significant way. Whether or not we will see major progress made during this competition remains anybody’s guess for the time being.

As evidenced by this competition being conducted by Boeing, it is evident people have started to take the concept of jetpacks more seriously over the past few years. A decade ago, such an invention would have been considered unthinkable. Thanks to rapid advancement in the world of flying vehicles – including cars and taxis – the concept of a jetpack suddenly sounds a lot less ridiculous. It will certainly be interesting to see what inventors can come up with in order to win the US$2 million prize.

A personal flying device may prove to be the next logical step in the future of transportation. Although a jetpack will require a whole new set of guidelines, regulations, and insurance policies, being able to fly remains one of those things which nearly everyone on this planet dreams of. During the competition’s first phase, ten prizes will be awarded based on written specifications. Four of those winners will compete in phase II, with the grand winner taking home US$1 million during the Final Fly-Off in 2019. An interesting future lies ahead; that much is certain.