Personal Air Vehicle Challenge
Rather than a personal jetpack that is limited to flights (or more accurately hops) of 30-50 seconds duration, how about a Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) with a range of 700 miles? Now you are talking – welcome to NASA's vision for a versatile vehicle to alleviate congestion on roads.
In pursuit of this vision, NASA held the first (of 5 annual) PAV Challenges (one of the Centennial Challenges), with prize money totaling $250,000, on August 4-12, 2007. Hosted by the CAFE Foundation at the Charles Schultz-Sonoma County Airport near Santa Rosa, California, the event attracted 4 teams flying the following airplanes:
- Pipistrel Virus (N282TT) - a Slovenia-built sport aircraft
- Pipistrel Virus (N2471P) - a slightly modified, short-wing version of the Virus
- Cessna 172 Skyhawk (N6351D) - the most successful small aircraft in production
- Vans RV-4 (N230A) - a highly modified (to reduce noise) kit plane
The PAVs were evaluated against essential requirements (with threshold limits for scoring) in the following categories:
- Takeoff distance
- Fuel efficiency
Scoring well in the takeoff distance (736 ft) and fuel efficiency (29.8 mpg) categories, the Pipistrel Virus (N2471P) took the overall prize for best airplane and $160,000. The remaining prize money was awarded to individual category winners.
The lightweight construction (using carbon fiber) of the Pipistrel Virus proved decisive and, combined with its aerodynamic efficiency (good lift and low drag), was unbeatable. Remarkably, the empty weight of the Pipistrel Virus (682 pounds) is less than the combined weight of its typical passengers, fuel and baggage.
By sponsoring a competition, NASA is hoping to stimulate innovation just as the X-Prize did for the suborbital space flight arena. If successful, we can look forward to PAVs just like the Jetsons'.