An Award-Winning Hyperloop Company Sets Its Sights on Human Flight

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There's nothing quite as thrilling as the dream of human flight. It's why so many people make parasailing a part of their vacation plans or plan their milestone birthdays around skydiving trips. But if you want to fly, to really fly, you'll need some serious innovation on your side. And for that, you'll need some serious innovators. As it turns out, sometimes, the seeds of flight are planted deep underground.

In the Loop

It all started with the SpaceX Hyperloop competition. The Hyperloop takes the concept of the pneumatic tube — a vacuum-sealed chute like the one that shunts cash from the bank to your car at a drive-up teller — and blows it up to the size of a train. The result is an incredibly fast conveyance (reaching 760 miles per hour, or 1,200 kilometers per hour) that could cut the commute between the two biggest West Coast cities to less than an hour. Who wouldn't want that? But actually making it happen would be a massive project, even for a firmly established tech company.

Enter rLoop. A globe-spanning team of engineers and designers, rLoop's team was bound together by their passion for the competition and their crowdsourced work ethic. What really set them apart, though, was the fact that the organization avoided the bulkiness of a traditional corporation since it was put together almost entirely on Reddit. More than 500 minds sprang to action to solve the problem, relying on their individual expertise and the ideas they shared on the message board. The only thing they were missing was funding — and that's where TE Connectivity came in.

An engineering company with roots going back to the 1940s, TE's work runs the gamut from aerospace engineering to intelligent architecture to innovations in medicine and healthcare. Excited both by rLoop's ideas and their egalitarian methods, TE decided to back the scrappy team in SpaceX's competition to design the first hyperloop. Together, they developed some major new technologies, including a revolutionary battery system that was ultimately recognized by SpaceX with an Innovation award. Unfortunately, they didn't take home the top prize, but that wasn't enough to stop the partnership. Instead, the two organizations simply set their sights higher — literally.

To the Skies

With a new project known as rFlight, many of the same brilliant minds behind rLoop are now working on realizing the dream of human flight. Just like last time, they're working to win a major competition, and just like last time, they have TE's technology to support the project. Boeing's GoFly competition wants to revolutionize flight with a single-person vehicle that can integrate easily into the average commuter's life. Called an rWing, rFlight's entry in the competition is what they call a "motorcycle of the sky" — compact, agile, and devastatingly cool. When complete, it will be small enough for an ordinary garage, able to launch vertically (no need to worry about finding a runway at the office), and capable of flying 20 miles or more without refueling or recharging. It's amazing what a great partnership has the potential to do.

TE Connectivity supports the engineering vision that brings the seemingly impossible to life.

Written by Reuben Westmaas March 1, 2019
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