NASA Goes Looking For Flying-Car Innovations

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Have an idea for making the flying car of the future work? NASA wants to hear about it, and the space agency is offering $250,000 in prizes as encouragement. The Personal Air Vehicle Challenge, announced at AirVenture last month, will pay $25,000 each for advances in noise control and handling qualities. The biggest reward, $150,000, would recognize a vehicle with two to six seats that can fly at least 130 mph for a 300-mile range while being fuel-efficient and making good time door-to-door. The idea, NASA engineer Mark Moore told AVweb, is to encourage "chaotic" research. "We think we understand the problem at NASA, but we could be wrong," he says. "Some of the greatest technological innovations have come from somebody playing around in their garage." During a forum at Oshkosh, X Prize winner Burt Rutan was critical of prize strategies that offer inadequate cash incentives, saying the challenge must be less incremental and the reward must be big enough to stimulate interest and investment.