NASA offers $1.5 million for 200MPG aircraft

All manner of technologies from bio-fuels, batteries, fuel-cells and electric-powered flight expected to compete for NASA prize.

Electric Goshawk
NASA today opened up the completion for its Green Flight Challenge which offers up to $1.5 million for an aircraft that can average at least 100 mph on a 200-mile flight while achieving greater than 200 passenger miles per gallon.

Co-sponsored by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation the competition is scheduled for July 2011 at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif. A variety of innovative experimental aircraft using electrical, solar, bio-fuel or hybrid propulsion are expected to enter. Several major universities and aircraft builders have expressed their intention to enter teams in the challenge, NASA stated.

The Challenge is intended to bring about the development and convergence of new technologies and innovations that can improve the community acceptance, efficiency, door-to-door speed, utility, environmental-friendliness, affordability and safety of future air vehicles, CAFÉ stated. Such technologies and innovations include, but are not limited to, bio-fueled propulsion, breakthroughs in batteries, motors, fuel-cells and ultra-capacitors that enable electric-powered flight, advanced high lift technologies for very short takeoff and landing distances, ultra-quiet propellers, enhanced structural efficiency by advances in material science and nano-technology and safety features such as vehicle parachutes and air-bags.

Such technologies will support advances in aviation and may have broader applications in transportation and energy storage, NASA stated.

To ensure that air vehicles are useful, safe and practical, the Challenge is comprised of a series of separate but inter-related flight attempts that measure key performance capabilities, CAFÉ stated.

 The Green Flight Challenge is part of NASA's Centennial Challenges designed to stimulate innovation and competition in solar system exploration and other ongoing NASA mission areas, the agency said.

NASA has in the past supported a Centennial Challenge around Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs) which are small, relatively inexpensive aircraft that can be used for personal travel -- basically a car in the sky.

NASA aeronautics developed the PAV concept with the idea of transporting people to within just a few miles of their doorstep destination at trip speeds three to four times faster than airlines or cars. NASA predicts that up to 45% of all miles traveled in the future may be in PAVs. This will relieve congestion at metropolitan hub airports and the freeways that surround them, reduce the need to build new highways and save much of the 6.8 billion gallons of fuel wasted in surface gridlock each year, NASA said.

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