A "Go Fly Prize" was announced at this year's SAE 2017 AeroTech Congress and Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas (26 to 28 September). Boeing has signed on as the grand sponsor for the competition.
The $2m prize will be awarded to any team that can successfully build and demonstrate "an easy-to-use, personal flying device", put simply, a jetpack. The organiser of the event has said that a prize of this size will incentivise innovation.
Conditions for a jetpack to qualify for the Go Fly Prize include vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, as well as being safe, quiet and ultra-compact. Besides, it should be able to carry one person over a 20-mile distance without stopping for a recharge or refuelling, reports the Verge.
The organiser of the event is a self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur", Gwen Lighter, who has reportedly been working on the idea for over two years until Boeing agreed to sponsor it. "What we are really talking about is making people fly," she said, in a statement to Verge.
"There is no dream that is more universally shared than that of soaring through the skies. It unites us all."
Developing jetpacks is not going to solve urban overcrowding problems or ease transportation and infrastructural bottlenecks, notes the report.
Lighter firmly believes that a number of innovations in the field transportation have made it possible for developing personal flying machines and that the idea is less absurd than it seems. She cited examples of 3D printing, improved battery tech, autonomous vehicles and even lightweight drones and said that all these technologies could possibly come together to make jetpacks a reality.
"Now is the first moment in history where something like these personal flying devices can be built," she said.
The prize money, according to Go Fly, will be awarded in three phases. Phase 1 will be 10 teams getting $20,000 (£14,930) based on technical specs. Phase 2 will be awarded to four projects and will be worth $50,000 (£37,330) each, given to teams that have the best prototypes with updated specs. The final prize will be worth $1m (£750,000) in the final "fly-off" in late 2019 and be judged by a panel of experts including a team from Boeing.
"Go Fly hopes to inspire a future where we use these personal flying devices to get around, to move around," said Lighter. "At the end of our two-year competition, we hope we have new technology and frankly a whole new industry," she added.
Boeing's chief technology officer Greg Hyslop said the competition "aligns with our company's goals of inspiring people across the globe and changing the world through aerospace innovation".
Jetpacks are not going to go into production anytime soon and there is no market for such a product, but the idea of the competition is to inspire inventors and students toward aerospace engineering, particularly VTOL, notes the report.