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UAV + Air-taxis = Awesome

The USA has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in the so named “war on terror” in the middle east.  In addition to defending the national security of the US these efforts were intended to bring about other benefits.  One of the ideas going into Iraq was that the US was going to benefit by obtaining rights to rich oil fields in that country.  Instead, China has obtained the rights to extract oil from Iraq.  On the other hand, the war with insurgents in Afghanistan is not going well.  It is not clear weather or not this will succeed or fail.

One of the unintended consiquences of these two wars has been the development and field testing of a very new type of weapons system, unmaned arial vehicles (UAV).  These UAVs have been used both for survailance and for combat missions and have undergon substantial evolutionary changes throughout the roughly 8 years that they have been in use.  Why don’t we put this technology to good use?

The UAV infrastructure and technology platforms constitute a tramendous opportunity to give rise to a new era of air transport.  The UAV infrastructure can be used to build a safe, low-risk network of small airports servicing small (4 place) aircraft on direct routs.  This dream could be brought quickly into reality with one simple policy.

Here it is:

50% of all UAVs sourced for the Department of Defense must be built on a general aviation airframe and the avionics and communication systems must be designed around the passenger configuration.

DARPA should be involved in creating a contest in partnership with universities and general aviation companies in order to develop airframes that match the above specification while striving for new distance, speed and fuel efficiency benchmarks.

In Visual Terms:

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fuel efficient plane modified VariEze photo




I just calculated the fuel economy of the Swift’Light PAS and the result was very surprising.  I calculated an average of nearly 150 miles per gallon.  I used the fact that the tank holds 8 liters (2.1 gal) , has a flight speed of ~100kph (62mph) and has a flight duration of 5 hrs per tank.  Thats (62m/h*5h)/2.1gal=148m/gal.  Boom, that’s half again the goal for the automotive X prize of 100mpg but in the sky!  The only caveat is that the SWIFT glider frame has a Vne of 120km/h or nearly 70mph.

There is a more streamlined version of the powered SwiftLight with a longer cabin and retractable landing gear that probably has an even lower fuel consumption than the model for sale.

Is it possible to create an air-frame that is competitive with the automobile?  Clearly you don’t need to break any physical laws to do it.  The question really is how much money and time will it take to build.  A slice of the D.O.D. budget would sure help!

Some Swift’Light PAS pictures:



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