Personal Air Vehicle

Personal Air Vehicle

Personal Air Vehicle or PAV is a term widely adopted by the U.S. aviation community and is used to describe a class of light general aviation aircraft which meet a specialized set of design and performance goals. NASA, in 2005, refined the definition of a PAV in describing fifth Centennial Challenge initiative, which it funds in conjunction with the CAFE Foundation. PAVs are an emerging field of technology exploration.

Basic premise

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. This is over 20 times more gasoline than is consumed by today's entire general aviation fleet.

A future system of travel by PAVs expressly avoids air traffic jams and can substantially help to relieve those on our highways.

Centennial Challenge PAV definition outline

* Seats 2 to 6 passengers.
* 150-200 mph (322 km/h) cruising speed.
* Quiet.
* Safe.
* Comfortable.
* Reliable.
* Able to be flown by anyone with a driver’s license.
* As affordable as travel by car or airliner.
* Near all-weather capability enabled by Synthetic Vision Systems.
* Highly fuel efficient (able to use alternative fuels).
* 800 mile (1300 km) range.
* Provide “door-to-door” travel capabilities, via vehicle roadability, or small residential airfields or vertiports with only a short walk from the aircraft to the final destination.

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 serious consideration for residential PAVs operations for take-off and landing. 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.

Current progress

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:

* Flying car (aircraft)
* Light Sport Aircraft
* Flettner airplaneplanes
* Sailplane
* Human-powered aircraft
* Touring motor gliders (TMG)
* Ultralights
* Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircraft

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 [ PAV Challenge] , will be held Aug 4-12 2007 and is hosted the [ CAFE Foundation] in Santa Rosa, CA.


* [ NASA’s PAV Centennial Challenge announcement]
* [ CAFE Foundation - PAV Centennial Challenge main website]
* [ FAA Light Sport Aircraft Regulatory Documents]
* [ Light Sport Aircraft website]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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