A personal aerial vehicle, personal air vehicle or PAV is a class of light general aviation aircraft which meet a specialized set of design and performance goals intended to make flying as commonplace as driving. NASA, in 2005, refined the definition of a PAV in the fifth Centennial Challenge initiative, which it funds in conjunction with the CAFE Foundation. PAVs are an emerging field of technology exploration.
The fundamental premise of this frontier technology is to make the capability of flight convenient for an individual with a reduction in the specialized skills required to operate an aircraft. The final goal being a practical “highway in the sky” scenario where an individual is able to fly from point to point with the ease of driving an automobile.
A new mode of transportation
Gridlocked highways increasingly burden our society. Currently, the doorstep-to-doorstep average speed for cars is 35 mph. In the greater Los Angeles area, this speed is predicted to degrade to just 22 mph by year 2020. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) states that 6.7 billion gallons of gasoline are wasted in traffic jams each year.
A future system of travel by PAVs expressly avoids air traffic jams and can substantially help to relieve those on our highways.
PAV definition outline according to NASA
Current technological barriers to PAV vision
A pure Synthetic Vision System infrastructure does not currently exist for general aviation aircraft. Current implementations of "Glass Cockpits" are now being adopted by general aircraft manufactures such as Cirrus Aircraft, Piper, Cessna, and Beechcraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) current infrastructure is not currently capable of handling the sizable increase in aircraft traffic that would be generated by PAVs. The FAA is currently planning the Next Generation Air Transportation System targeted for 2025 to expand and completely transform the current aged system. See FAA NGATS Modeling by NASA and others have shown that PAV's using new smaller community airports would reduce traffic into larger airports serving the commercial fleet.
Of the two methods proposed for providing “door-to-door” capabilities, only the roadable option can be achieved utilizing existing airport facilities and ordinary roads. Currently, the only vehicles able to legally take off and land from a residential street are life-flight helicopters via special permission granted by the FAA on a case-by-case basis. In order to meet the goals set by NASA, thousands of small residential airports would be required to be built.
Community noise generated by aircraft is a factor for residential PAVs. Without lower noise levels enabling residential landing capabilities, any PAV must still take off and land at an FAA controlled airport or private airfield, where the higher sound levels of operating aircraft have been approved.
The noise level of an aircraft is influenced by the choice of not using any muffler in order to obtain more engine power. Much study has been made in making helicopters and jets less noisy, but noise levels remain high. In 2005 a simple method of reducing noise was identified: keep aircraft at a higher altitude.
Complete fulfillment of the NASA vision for PAVs is likely to unfold over several decades. Several forms and categories of vehicle exist today which strive to meet the PAV definition to varying degrees of success. Some examples are:
As of present, most vehicles in the above category can not yet perform all of the requirements set by NASA. However, some vehicles falling under the above have already set-down fair all-round performance in all of NASA's requirements. Also; hybrid forms of the vehicle types above can also be useful. Some hybrid forms that have already been invented are:
Over the last 10 years, NASA Langley has researched and prototyped the necessary PAV technologies and has dedicated the largest cash prize in the history of GA to the PAV that can demonstrate the best overall combination of performance. The PAV flight competition for this prize, known as the first annual PAV Challenge, was held Aug 4-12, 2007 and hosted the CAFE Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA.
In 2008 the challenge was renamed as the General Aviation Technology Challenge.
The new prizes were:
The winners were:
Other notable designs
Published in July 2009.
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