Startups compete to build small, safe one-person flyers that can fit in a garage and take off from a driveway.

What would it take to be as free as a bird—flying above the treetops with the wind in your face and the world far beneath your feet?

For Mariah Cain and Jeff Elkins, the team behind DragonAir Aviation of Panama City Beach, Fla., the answer is a personal flying machine that makes the pilot look like a skier grasping two poles, standing atop an oversized hobby drone. For Stephen Tibbitts, who built the Zero-emissions Electric Vehicle Aircraft (ZEVA) ZERO in Tacoma, Wash., it was a bulbous eight-foot disc in which a pilot lies prone, sped across the sky by eight propellers.

Maybe you’d design something different—like a tiny helicopter, open to the breeze? Or a lounge chair surrounded by a ring of rotors? How about a gondola with two sets of blades at its base? Or your machine might resemble a flying motorcycle, with rotors clustered in front and back.

“I believe this is truly the largest economic paradigm shift in our lifetimes.”