For as long as humans have walked the Earth, they have looked to the skies, dreaming of flight. More than a century into the age of aviation, those dreams have been realized, in the form of too tight economy seats jammed into metal tubes and, for the lucky, forgettable movies on minuscule screens.
Now groups of students, innovators, and entrepreneurs around the world are hoping to reinvigorate the public’s love for life aloft by building personal flying machines that can carry a person 20 miles without stopping to refuel or recharge batteries. The results aren’t quite “flying cars” (WIRED’s accepted term for the aircraft the likes of Uber hope to deploy for passenger service). They’re smaller, hovering in the shared space between jetpacks and motorbikes, with a focus on fun over practicality. And compared to economy class, they look like a wonderful way to hit the skies.
These groups are taking part in a two-year competition backed by