Suburban Pocket Airports, Future Of GA?

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Small electric aircraft could solve the transportation problems of the near future by providing quick hops between neighborhood airports, according to a presentation at the Future of Electric Vehicles conference held earlier this month in San Jose, Calif. The "pocket" airports could support 120 operations per hour, limited to small air-taxi vehicles only, while occupying only two acres in urban areas, said Brien Seeley, president of the CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) Foundation. Ideally, the small aircraft would take off in less than 100 feet and achieve energy efficiency equivalent to 200 miles per gallon. "The [travel] gridlock we face now is going to get worse," Seeley said. "This is a form of insanity ... We need to travel in 3-D."

In Seeley's vision, the Suburban Air Vehicles (SAVs) would fly themselves on autopilot, and the flight paths would be coordinated by a central control system, according to Gizmag. "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," Seeley said. Steep take-offs would minimize noise and danger to airport neighbors, and each SAV would be equipped with a parachute. The CAFE Foundation is working to promote technology prizes to develop these ideas. The first Green Flight Challenge, to be held next July, offers $1.6 million to the winning design for a low-cost, quiet, low-emissions personal aircraft. Seeley said he hopes to offer a second prize in 2013 and a third in 2015, each awarding more than $2 million for the development of ultra-quiet, autonomous SAVs.