A little over a year ago, we told you about NASA’s Green Flight Challenge that is offering US$1.6 million in production funds to the winning design for a for low-cost, quiet, short take-off personal aircraft, that require little if any fossil fuel.
The competition, to be decided next July, is being run by NASA’s light-aircraft partner CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency), which envisions the resulting Suburban Air Vehicles (SAVs) taking off and landing at small neighborhood “pocket airports.” At last week’s Future of Electric Vehicles conference, CAFE president Dr. Brien Seeley outlined just how those airports would work.
“The shocking news is, that after a full century of flight, aviation still fails to fulfill the fundamental purpose of moving people fast without need of roads,” he began. “We now believe that green technology can solve this.”
According to Seeley, by the time travelers have made their way by ground to their city’s one main airport, and then traveled again by ground from the destination airport to their final destination point, the speed with which the waiting airliner will get them there has been negated. The solution, he explained, is 2 to 4-passenger SAVs that could ferry people between the main airports and conveniently-located pocket airports.
The Green Flight Challenge, he explained, is just the first step in NASA’s plan to develop a new aviation infrastructure, in which quiet, auto-piloted aircraft would deliver people and goods on a point-to-point basis, within communities. In order to qualify for the prize, planes will have to get at least 200 mpg (1.18 L/100km), go at least 100 mph (161 kph), emit no more than 78 decibels from a 250-foot (76-meter) distance, and have a take-off distance, clearing a 50-foot obstacle, of less than 2,000 feet (or a 15-meter obstacle at 610 meters).