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GoAERO Opens $2 Million VTOL Challenge

Updated: Apr 15

Developers Invited to Design Emergency Response Patient Delivery Pods

A new incentive campaign seeks to seed out the design for a single-occupant, autonomous, emergency response aircraft with a $2 million dollar prize up for grabs.

The deal was announced at the Vertical Flight Society’s Transformative Vertical Flight meeting earlier this month as the GoAERO Prize. The competition was dreamt up by GoAERO CEO and founder Gwen Lighter with the AERO acronym standing for “Aerial Emergency Response Operations.”

Lighter's previous work, the GoFly Prize competition, saw more than 3,600 developers from 103 countries design their own small VTOL aircraft. (That competition was "derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic", according to the Vertical Flight Society's magazine Vertiflite. Phase 2 saw 5 prizes of $50,000 issued to VTOL demonstrators and revised Phase 1 materials.)

“GoAERO is a three-year global competition with over $2M in prizes to build emergency response flyers that will rescue people and perform critical response missions,” said the GoAero founder. “We are catalyzing the creation of safe, portable, robust, autonomy-enabled flyers that respond to challenges posed by natural disasters, climate change, medical emergencies and humanitarian crises.”

“In the US alone, nearly 4.5 million people live in ‘ambulance deserts.’ In a medical crisis, people in these areas have to wait as long as 25 minutes or more for an emergency medical crew to arrive. In 2022, there were more than 380 natural disasters worldwide — affecting 185 million people and resulting in the loss of over 30,000 lives."

The First stage of the prize will require digital submission of teams' approach and designs, due October 2024. Ten prizes of $10,000 will be awarded. Stage 2 occurs in June 2026, and offers 8 prizes of $40,000 each for full or sub-scale flying aircraft. Stage 3 is a fly-off, taking place in Q1 2027. That will boast 5 different categories totaling $1.7 million in prize money.


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