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Meet the women making “personal flying machines” a reality

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Far more people know about Orville and Wilbur Wright than their sister, Katharine Wright Haskell. But without her role as essentially their business manager, the brothers may never have gotten off the ground. Women have played key roles behind the scenes in aviation as pilots, engineers, and managers. Now they are coming to the fore with an international competition to build what may seem as crazy and inspiring as the Wright family’s contraptions: so-called “personal flying machines.”

Gwen Lighter [Photo: courtesy of GoFly]“We are seeing flying motorcycles and flying platforms and human-carrying drones,” says Gwen Lighter, creator and CEO of the GoFly prize. In 2017, the young entrepreneur convinced Boeing and other sponsors to fund a $2 million competition encouraging mad scientists and daredevils to come as close as possible to Star Wars’s light cycles, James Bond’s jetpack, Marty McFly’s hoverboard, or any other flying dream.

Why? Fun is one reason. “We expect that there will be human drone racing,” says Lighter, “and quidditch comes to the world.”

“It’s empowering to be flying around in the third dimension . . . just experiencing the world in a different way,” says Mariah Cain, the leader and test pilot for DragonAir Aviation, one of five teams that won $50,000 in Phase II of GoFly’s three-phase, two year-long competition.

Related: The battery guru who will help keep Uber’s sky taxis flying

Lighter, Cain, and the other winners also tout practical uses for the next-level........

© Fast Company