Whether you view Google as a benevolent Internet overlord or the new 'Evil Empire', there’s no arguing that the search giant at least devotes some of its squazillions towards environmentally beneficial causes. Earlier this year the company invested US$168 million
in what will be the world’s largest solar power tower plant and now it has partnered with NASA to sponsor the Green Flight Challenge
that offers a prize purse of $1.65 million for the design of quiet, practical and energy-efficient aircraft.
The jetpack is arguably the most game-changing method of transport one could envision using technology available today. However, despite some progress
, a jetpack-powered commute still seems a very long way in the future. Not to be daunted by this, Australian designer Marc Newson has turned his hand to producing a compelling jetpack design concept, dubbed the “Body Jet.”
A European Union project known as myCopter has set aside funds of €4.2 million (US$6.2m) to investigate the possibility of introducing Personal Aerial Vehicles (PAVs) into the skyways of many congested European cities. This coming age of the "flying car
" where vehicles leave the roads and launch into the skies promises to solve problems like dramatically rising urban traffic congestion, but it also throws up some formidable challenges - it's these challenges that the myCopter project aims to address.
We first came across the water-propelled jetpack
early in 2009 and since then the company has changed its name to Jetlev Technologies and teamed up with German company MS Watersports GmbH to get the machine to market. Now the first JetLev R200 jetpacks are set to hit the water, and while it won't let you beat traffic on your daily commute – unless your home and workplace are conveniently located along the same body of water – it does look like a whole lot of fun.
Sonex Aircraft’s proof-of-concept electric-powered Waiex sports aircraft
has successfully completed its maiden flight. The flight earlier this month follows four years of development of the aircraft, with the data to be used to determine if any firmware adjustments are needed before proceeding to full traffic pattern and extended-duration test flights.
Switzerland’s Yves Rossy, better known as Jetman or Fusionman
, has achieved another aviation first by performing two aerial loops using his unique jet-powered strap-on wing. Rossy made headlines in 2004
, when he first achieved horizontal flight with his original carbon fiber wing, flying 12 kilometers (7.46 miles) over the Alps. He created an even bigger fuss in 2008
, when he used his wing to fly across the English Channel. Then, just last year
, he got a bit wet when he unsuccessfully tried to fly from Morocco to Spain. Now, however, he can add another success to his growing list.
It's been a long time coming. While Arthur C. Clarke's satellites have taken to space, and James Bond's futuristic mobile technology has become common place, still the legend of Icarus has captivated us and the dream of sustained personal flight has eluded us. But the future is here! Finally we can all take flight as Martin Aircraft in New Zealand releases the first commercially-available jet pack!
As we've seen with the ongoing X-Prize
model, competitions can be a great way to provide incentive for technological advancements in transport. While the latest example, the Lunar X Prize, has its sight set on the heavens, NASA is running a competition with objectives a little closer to the ground. The Green Flight Challenge is enticing creative types with a USD$1.5 million prize in which designers need to create an aircraft that is low cost, quiet, has a short take-off, is 'road worthy' and gets excellent passenger-miles per gallon.
We continue to be optimistic about the future of personal flight - and from flying cars
to coaxial flying platforms
, ion-powered jetpacks
and more recreational solutions
, plenty of innovative designs are striving for viability. We haven't seen anything like this one before though - Entecho has come up with an operating prototype of a sort of cylindrical fan-forced flying saucer, steered by directing the downward airflow through a flexible skirt that allows easy directional control. The blades are not exposed and move reasonably slowly, it's stable in flight and the system is remarkably simple from a mechanical point of view. It's also quite simple to fly using a joystick controller. Totally VTOL and with a small footprint, perhaps the Entecho Hoverpod might deliver as a practical and affordable personal flight solution.
We've written before about the nifty flying carpet-style PAM Individual Lifting Vehicle
- now it seems there's another self-stabilizing coaxial dual-rotor flying platform on the way. The AN-1 AeroQuad, from Spain's Aeris Naviter, boasts all the key advantages of the PAM VTOL platform - it's as easy to pilot as a Segway, it'll fly for up to 5 hours, and happily hover at 20-30 feet with a maximum payload of 200kg - making it very handy for crop spraying, firefighting, aerial photography, lifeguarding, rescue and border control in mountainous areas. The AeroQuad moves forward from the PAM design, though, in that it comes in both land- or water-based configurations, and either one is able to fold up after use to a size so small you only need a half-trailer to transport it.