Autopiloted Suburban Air Vehicles for point to point air travel without road commutes to airports

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 (Suburban Air Vehicles) that could ferry people between the main airports and conveniently-located pocket airports.

This is pretty much the vision that I described in 2008 of UAV control applied to electric of high hybrid airplanes.

UPDATE – I look at the issue of a rollout plan and the CAFE foundation studies of relieving ground congestion and specific locations for pocket airports.

The NASA Green Flight Challenge 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).

The CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) Foundation blog has a lot of information on the Green Flight challenge and the planes being developed that could achieve the goals

Pipistrel is working on a 4 seat hybrid plane that will go at 230 mph.

The Pipistrel Virus SW won the NASA centennial PAV challenge 2007 and NASA GAT centennial challenge 2008.

The Virus SW has 80 or 100 HP engines and can fly for 5.3 to 6.9 hours with a maximum speed of 287 kph (175 mph) The 100 HP version can takeoff in 95 meters. The Fuel economy is about 30-40 mpg. The Taurus has the fuel economy but has a longer takeoff range.

The Pipestrel Taurus is the World’s two seated (side by side) ultralight powered glider (50 hp engine)
* Max speed 225 km/h (140 mph)
* it needs less than 180 meters (330 feet) of runway to takeoff

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.

For its pocket airports concept, however, CAFE would like to see those requirements ultimately taken even further – Seeley said that his group envisions SAVs that get well over 200 mpg, cruise at over 120 mph (193 kph), emit less than 60 dBA from 125 feet (38 meters), and have the ability to take off in a distance of under 100 feet (30.5 meters).

“This is what the SAV would offer you: a fast vehicle with an open road and no traffic,” he said. “The pathway you get through the sky is de-conflicted, so there’s no one else on that road, and you go directly where you want to go.” The various planes’ flightpaths would be coordinated by a central control system, to keep them from flying into one another, and each SAV would be equipped with a parachute.

The basic single-runway pocket airports would be no larger than two acres (0.8 hectares) in size, and located in greenbelts just outside major urban areas. They would be capable of 120 operations per hour, as rows of SAVs/air taxis would wait for their turn to take off, one going every 30 seconds. CAFE also has designs for a 4-acre (1.6-hectare) airport that would have three runways arranged in a triangle, that would be capable of 260 operations per hour, plus an 8-acre (3.2-hectare) version with two end-to-end runways (with a large space in between them), and a 12-acre (4.8-hectare) version with two side-by-side runways and parking for 320 ground vehicles.

Once the first Green Flight Challenge is over, CAFE would like to see a second one take place in 2013, that would award US$2 million for the development of ultra-quiet, ultra-short-runway SAVs, followed by a third one in 2015, that would offer up US$2.35 million to make the winner of Challenge #2 autonomous.

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