FAA spokesman Les Dorr says that technology development “will be driven by market forces and the ability to comply with FAA safety regulations. You might ask yourself ‘Am I ready to buy a ticket on a pilotless aircraft?’ ”
When the Langley team disbanded in 2005, NASA’s direct personal air vehicle research ended, but the dream continues. The space agency, working through the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation, in August awarded $250,000 in prize money for its PAV Challenge for the design of a two- or three-seat vehicle with an 800-mile range and ability to use a short runway.
The victor was Vance Turner, owner of a short-wing Pipistrel Virus, a lightweight sport aircraft built in Slovenia. The craft can go 170 mph and gets 50 miles to the gallon.
The challenge is the first of five annual competitions being held through 2011. When and if consumers ever trust flying cars enough to want to buy one, the dreamers want to be ready.