Pathipan Sivarasa’s grandfather was in the Royal Airforce in Malaysia during World War II and he would tell Pathipan and his brothers tragic stories of the global conflict.  Undeterred, Pathipan was determined to become a pilot, so fascinated he was by “flying objects…

“We lived near an airport and each time a plane was landing or taking off, my brothers and I used to run outside the house to see what sort of a plane it was and in which direction it was taking off,” recalls Pathipan.  “Sometimes, we could hear the aircraft revving down the runway, and we eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of the plane.  Plus, I was always thrilled to send something up in the air, from flying paper planes to launching prop discs up in the air.”

Now Pathipan’s team is working to launch something much more adventurous. Indeed, he is captain of the GoFly Prize Team Challengers, a multinational squad that is based in Ottawa but comprised of innovators from the US, UK, France, Australia, Botswana and Canada.

Pathipan says that participating in the global challenge served as the launching pad for bringing to reality “the burning desire to create something interesting in the field of aviation. Though the interest was always there, one needs a starting point to put things down on a piece of paper and work on something constructive to get to some point, and this is what GoFly gave us.”

Of course, going from a piece of paper to building a personal flyer has its challenges – not the least of which is the different geographical locations of the various team members.  But just as the technology now exists to bring personal human flight to fruition – from 3D printing to advances in propulsion — current technology, including social media and video-conferencing, has gone a long way to helping Team Challengers overcome such obstacles.  The key, Pathipan stresses, is to “turn to the technologies that are available and find the optimum way to put them together.”

The words of his Taekwondo Grandmaster have also been key, guiding him in his professional pursuits, as well as with his GoFly endeavors.  “He always tells me and all of his students, ‘You Never Fail…Until You Stop Trying.’”

Pathipan’s own inquisitiveness would never allow anything less.  He explains that he always wanted to reason out everything that he saw – “I wanted to know the science behind it.  And my good knowledge of physics and general science always came handy in understanding the principles of flying.”

This knowledge also came in handy in Pathipan’s professional career. He worked for several leading military/civil/business aerospace companies and worked on the design and upgrades of aircrafts ranging from fixed-wing to rotary-wing, Even to this day, he notes, “I still can’t resist looking at a plane with the same level of excitement as I had in my childhood. My daughters make fun of me when I get excited like a child when I see a plane flying.”

And does he feel the same excitement about a future in which personal flyers are ubiquitous?

“Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a sky with several flying devices,” Pathipan says. “But there are so many birds flying at different levels, finding their way and doing their day-to-day activities. So, yes, I can envision a sky full of bird-like devices with humans busy moving around attending to their daily routine… or on the other hand, flying for just fun!”

There is still time to join the challenge here: