×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

'Pocket Airports' Would Link Neighborhoods By Air

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the visibility-5-miles-no-problem dept.

NASA 257

cylonlover writes "NASA's light-aircraft partner, CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency), is running a competition to design a low-cost, quiet, short take-off personal aircraft, that requires little, if any, fossil fuel. It envisions the resulting Suburban Air Vehicles taking off and landing at small neighborhood 'pocket airports.' At last week's Future of Electric Vehicles conference, CAFE president Dr. Brien Seeley outlined just how those airports would work."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

257 comments

interesting (4, Funny)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584608)

Electric power might be a contender here, as you could use the 3 hours you will spend being x-rayed, swabbed, fingerprinted and cavity-searched before each flight to charge the battery.

Re:interesting (3, Interesting)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584618)

Funny thing is most general aviation airports can be accessed without even seeing a security guard.

Re:interesting (1)

ocdscouter (1922930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584788)

Well we'll just have to fix that now won't we? But in all honesty, I'm kinda surprised that there's been no coordinated effort to change things on that front.

Re:interesting (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34584894)

There has been, but AOPA is quite good at keeping things in perspective. Why do you need to guard a 4 seater against hijacking? It's not like you're going to do that much damage...

Re:interesting (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585316)

Except that such small aircraft and airports won't be such a terrorist target.

Why are big aircraft such a terrorist target? Because the results of a successful target are so spectacular: with one bomb, you take out 200+ people; with one plan, you can take out a whole skyscraper. But little regional hoppers simply won't be such a target. If terrorists merely wanted to kill people, almost any major sports event or malls on busy shopping days would do. What terrorists want is our fear, which requires out attention, which requires spectaculars. They don't attack GA airports because the spectacular effect of taking out someone's 4-seater GA plane is near nil.

The current security theatre is a huge victory for the terrorists. Every air traveler in the US is thinking about them and their issues every time they fly. At the first level, they have succeeded spectacularly. At the second level, they haven't a chance: there is no way that this attention is going to have the effect they want. In WWII, both Britain and Germany though that the mass bombing of their cities would bring the other side to their knees. The result was the opposite: it reinforced the fighting spirit. The idea that any conceivable terrorist will do more than make the US angry and more resolute is laughable.

The age-old known problem with flying cars... (0)

Senes (928228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584628)

How do we keep people from amassing their own arsenals of homebrew ballistic missiles?

Re:The age-old known problem with flying cars... (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585160)

The same way we keep them from getting an arsenal of handguns. We let anyone who wants one have one, then it doesn't matter.

The rules of aviation are written in blood (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584636)

The first thing I thought of when I saw SAVs is soccer mom's crashing into light poles.

Re:The rules of aviation are written in blood (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584878)

The first thing that I thought of is somebody who can't be bothered fix his leaky vehicle, which will drop oil everywhere he flies. It'll be the tragedy of the commons.

I'm certain that this pocket airport will be a bad idea, because people will need to hover, while they merge into street traffic. It will destroy neighbourhoods, and force people to move even farther away.

Re:The rules of aviation are written in blood (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34585068)

But at least we won't have to pay taxes for road repairs anymore.

We have enough airports and airplanes (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34584642)

Thanks to pork seeking Congressmen, there are lots of small, infrequently used airports in this country. Flying safely is hard. Small airplanes are expensive. This country has enough of both. We don't need more.

Re:We have enough airports and airplanes (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584786)

The small airports that are infrequently used are that way because of the decline of general aviation.

Airplanes used to be about twice the price of a family car, then the rise of lawsuits against aircraft makers lead to fewer planes being sold and the price of used aircraft skyrocketing.

Legal reforms by Congress in the mid-90s helped aircraft makers some, but the price is still way too high.

While there are some regional airports that are there because of pork, many general aviation airports have closed because of a lack of business.

I grew up at a small general aviation field in the 70s and 80s, then we too had to close because of liability because insurance costs exploded.

Now here in Anchorage Alaska, we have two general aviation fields, plus the general aviation seaplane port and the international airport. The main GA field, Merrill Field is very close to my home and I just heard a small plane depart over my house even though it's 10:40 PM and 1 F out.

Toys for the rich (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34584644)

Yay for toys for the rich while wealth is transferred from the lower and middle classes and the world burns.

Plutocracy (1)

fremsley471 (792813) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584668)

Already 2 834 airports nationwide with no scheduled passenger flights:

Federal funding at its finest [usatoday.com]

Re:Plutocracy (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584790)

General Aviation airports, like those in the story you linked to are for private owned aircraft, hence no scheduled passenger flights.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_aviation [wikipedia.org]

Re:Plutocracy (2, Interesting)

fremsley471 (792813) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585012)

Yes... but I won't patronise you with a wiki link to plutocracy. The point of the article is these airports are for private flights but:

an obscure federal program that raises billions of dollars a year through taxes on every airplane ticket sold in the United States. The taxes can add up to 15% to the cost of a flight

Private aircraft are far more useful to their owners when there's a network of handy airports. Perfectly understandable, but why do scheduled airline passengers pay for them? If all Interstate highways had tolls that were paying for private race-tracks...

Re:Plutocracy (2, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585428)

Private aircraft are far more useful to their owners when there's a network of handy airports. Perfectly understandable, but why do scheduled airline passengers pay for them? If all Interstate highways had tolls that were paying for private race-tracks...

Because otherwise the little puddle jumpers would be intermingled between the big boys, clogging up scare slots. It's designed to be a win for both sides.

Re:Plutocracy (4, Interesting)

fremsley471 (792813) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585520)

So it's a bit like building a 'limousine only' carriageway to help avoid congestion? The landing fees at these small airports should therefore be the same as the larger airports or this stance sounds like blackmail- "If you don't build us, a tiny minority, separate facilities then we'll clog up the majority".

Perhaps the fees at under-utilised airports should be higher due to the exclusivity afforded by this arrangement? No, they're massively subsidised [see article], sometimes practically free.

Less roads could save land (4, Interesting)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584680)

I sometimes marvel at the size of a single road intersection: some of them are many times larger than an average person's yard!
Imagine how much land could be saved if we didn't have to dedicate so much of it to roads. I'm not sure that's what they're claiming but the thought is tantalizing.

FTA:
“The gridlock we face now is going to get worse,” Seeley stated, citing research into congestion on the world’s roads. “This is a form of insanity... We need to travel in 3D.”

Wishing more jobs offered work-at-home options! That would certainly help.

Re:Less roads could save land (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34584896)

Only some of them? How big are average people's yards where you live?

Re:Less roads could save land (1)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585220)

I often look at roads and wonder how much better the area would be without them. If you think of all the good areas you like to be in, there's a good chance they are nowhere near a road (or at least any sort of main road). Park? Beach? Mountain? Bush? No-one ever says stuck in traffic, or sitting on the side of a busy freeway. Why do we persist with this 1950's car based strategy in major cities when it clearly causes so many issues?

Re:Less roads could save land (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585256)

I don't think a lack of space is the problem in the US, it is that everyone wants to live in the same place because then they are nearer to services, work, shopping and so forth. If you could make getting from less populated areas into cities faster and cheaper then people could spread out more.

We have similar issues in the UK made worse by NIMBYs, but the same basic problem exists.

Re:Less roads could save land (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585304)

"If you could make getting from less populated areas into cities faster and cheaper then people could spread out more."

That's exactly what cars did. They lead to the birth of the suburbs, allowing people to live in places of moderate population density while having the advantages of a major city within easy traveling distance. The problem now is that this model is a victim of it's own success: The car-enabled suburb model has reached the limit of scaling without a radical redesign.

Re:Less roads could save land (1)

rastilin (752802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585418)

I agree that everyone wants to live in the same place is a problem; however I think the main place they want to live is suburbia. People want lots of room, and then they need the roads to get to their jobs, stores and other things that are really far away from where they live. This might be different where you live, but that's the situation here. Research even shows that people's happiness is influenced more by the length of their commutes than how much space they have at home past a given area of space. There's no clear solution here because the easiest solution is to force people to live in skyscrapers near the city center, you could fit entire neighborhoods in one of those if they were converted to living space. The problem is that people would fight it to the end of time.

Personally I would love to see either more underground cities, like the one in Western Australia; where people are forced to live no further than walking distance from where they work and eat or arcologies, where people can still have space, but are constrained on a 3d axis.

None of these are good solutions because they depend on forcing people to behave a certain way. I'd rather put up with the roads and pollution than be forced to move, even though I personally prefer living in the city.

Re:Less roads could save land (1)

MonkeyRobo (1925130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585366)

I wonder about this sort of thing too. Should we ever achieve post-scarcity (a la The Diamond Age), I think that the transformation of our urban landscapes would have as much to do with "we don't need all these roads and car parks and trucks everywhere" as it would with "we can have all the things we want". We devote an awful lot of time, space, and energy to just moving stuff around.

Re:Less roads could save land (1)

ensignyu (417022) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585404)

Look at the parking lot of a large mall on Google Maps. You could probably fit dozens or hundreds of homes there. A single parking structure takes up as much space as an office building.

And parking structures aren't cheap, either, at around $15,000-$20,000 per parking space.

200 mpg?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34584692)

"In order to qualify for the prize, planes will have to get at least 200 mpg (1.18 L/100km), go at least 100 mph (161 kph)"

Whatever they are smoking, I want some of.

Re:200 mpg?!?! (3, Insightful)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584856)

You do realise that ground based vehicles use quite a bit more fuel per mile than those in the air don't you?
Even if they didn't, flying at constant speed without having to worry about stopping every few minutes the fuel savings would be enormous.

Re:200 mpg?!?! (1, Funny)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584974)

Why wouldn't you have to worry about stopping every few minutes? Government will soon put up traffic lights on blimps to halt traffic, also speed limits. You will be stuck behind some old geezer in his autogyro because it will be illegal to overtake.

Re:200 mpg?!?! (1, Funny)

md65536 (670240) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585108)

Not only does it have to get 200 mpg, but it has to be low-cost, quiet, have a short take-off distance, require no fuel, be constructed out of recycled paper, look really cool, carry 4 tonnes freight, shoot sparkles out its exhaust, pass a Turing test, eat 50 eggs in one sitting, and touch its right index finger to its right elbow.

Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the road (5, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584708)

Any mechanic who works for a roadside service company can tell you that peoples cars "break down" for the oddest reasons. Not enough petrol, wrong fuel, forgot to put in oil. All sorts of stuff that simply has to be maintained and replaced and doesn't leading to failure. Running out of petrol with your car is embarrising, running out of fuel in your airplane makes you a lawn dart or worse. I don't particularly care if some soccer-mom with the IQ of a weasel (sorry weasels) gets herself killed along with her kids. But if she crashes into my house, I would get upset.

What about the weather? Snow is bringing down europe but a car caught in a snow storm just becomes stuck. An aircraft? Has to divert. How far? Small airplane, small fuel tank. Can you imagine 100 soccer mom's lining up for an icy runway when they can barely park a car in summer on an empty lot? Or for that matter the business exec who thinks his beamer is a snow mobile and plows into a lamp post? Now that lamp post will be your apartment building.

As for controlling so many aircraft, LA airport is already uncontrollable and happily parked an airliner on a small jet years ago and things haven't got much better. Can you imagine a 100 or more increase in traffic figures? And if trained pilots from other countries already cause dangerous situations because they don't speak English, what will happen if hillbillies take to the air?

Just walk the street someday and notice for fun just how many cars stall for some reason or another. Oh it is not 1 per minute, but 1 per week would already cause a number of light aircraft accidents to severly burden the coffin industry. Would you step into a one-engined airliner?

No, someday we may have the tech AND the discipline but right now, the idea of the average road user in the air would have me make my next house a bunker, a deep one. SUV's in the sky... somethings just shouldn't be.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (2)

Loki_666 (824073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584782)

Have to agree with this. Who will be the first to afford them? Of course, the rich who already drive on the roads in their SUVs like they own the roads and generally behave like complete pricks. Imagine letting these brain dead idiots fly?

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584842)

Me and Darwin agree that letting these brain dead idiots fly is mathematically good.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

Chatsubo (807023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584804)

When people started talking about flying cars the same stuff came up and the response is... Don't let Joe Soap fly it, make a computer do it.

You have to be reasonable here, either Joe has the capacity to qualify for a PPL (significantly harder than getting your license at the DMV), or you don't require a PPL, and have a machine fly the thing. This has positives like, no need for crazy-busy traffic control if the planes can talk to each other.

The only PROBLEM I see with that is a failure which will REQUIRE the passenger to intervene and fly by override. I guess worst case is you require a slimmed down version of a PPL.

BUT, all that aside, the article mentions "taxi" services. Which alleviates all these issues (and yes, your average cabby probably won't qualify for the license without quite a bit of sharpening up).

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584952)

Also I imagine anything of this kind pretty much has to be VTOL. Anything else is simply too complicated and too computationally difficult when it comes to air traffic control and landing procedures, as the GP points out.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585188)

You do realize with DGPS that planes can take off, fly, and land themselves *today*, right? In fact they could and did do it 10 years ago. The only reason the pilot is there is to make you feel good and to take over in the .001% of cases where the flight is not routine.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585324)

If the engineering problems of having the thing actually fly were solved, I'd use some form of optical tracking for landing.

1. Passanger gets in.
2. Passanger enters his destination.
3. Computer checks fuel, engine condition, etc. Gets clearance from the central controller for a route, reserves it's landing pad at the destination.
4. Computer takes off.
5. Computer flies via GPS to approximate destination.
6. Computer uses downwards-pointing camera to locate landing pad - it would look like a giant square barcode, with a unique identifier.
7. Computer lands on pad.
And in case of failure, the computer plots it's route never to be more than ten minutes flight away from an emergency landing pad.

At no point does the untrained passanger ever get to fly the vehicle. It doesn't even have controls to allow that. I'm not worried about terrorists so much as drunk drivers and street racers.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584942)

I agree with you.

You forgot to mention seniors. They tend to feel a sense of entitlement and confidence. I don't think that we have the political will to deny that to them, while allowing others.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585000)

Old people tend to be afraid of this kind of stuff, I don't think there would be a big problem.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585120)

Old people don't like sweeping generalizations.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585196)

Old people now might be afraid of this kind of thing. It's the old people fifty years in the future who have been flying all their lives and don't see why they should stop who will be the problem.

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585280)

I love naysayers-- especially those who don't know what the frak they're talking about. FUD FUD FUD! Fortunately, Mr. Guillotine invented a most clever device, particularly appropriate for people such as the author of the FUD above. Would the author care to provide a meatspace address?

Re:Ask the AA/ANWB or whatever fixes car on the ro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34585282)

No, someday we may have the tech AND the discipline but right now, the idea of the average road user in the air would have me make my next house a bunker, a deep one. SUV's in the sky... somethings just shouldn't be.

Hey, what's so wrong with that idea?

Underground housing would also solve a HUGE number of problems and free up a large chunk of land in gardens.
Doesn't even need to be entirely under the ground, a simple little "entrance" area could be up top, which is basically one large room besides toilet room.
Then staircase down below (whether actual spiral, or rectangular spiral, or anything else that is space saving and functional)
There you have it, your main house.
A few metres under the ground should do it.

So what would amount to essentially a backdoor conservatory of sorts is now the entrance to the main house below.
Think of the landscape too.
Huge-scale buildings are a little tricker, but they can be done as well. I somehow find it hard to believe that building underground where support is EVERYWHERE is harder than building up the way with cranes where there are crazy amounts of wind, not to mention the dangers of quakes.
Quakes in an underground building? Only going to be bad if it is near the fault-line, just like anything else really.

Will it happen? Hell no. Unless society were reborn through mega-scale wars that destroyed most cities where we COULD rebuild, it will never happen.
Nobody will want to put the effort behind learning how to build things underground instead of above. Plus you won't have that "fantastic view" anymore. Yes, i love the sight of a main road and loud cars, just the thing i need to wake in the morning.
And it could be replicated by 2 mirrors at front and back i guess. But that will end up being more costly, yet again why it probably won't work... (unless it is for the more richer side of society)

No way (4, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584734)

In our current political climate, there's no way Homeland Security would allow this to work in a manner any reasonable person would consider useful - it'd get "managed" and "secured" to death. You think airport delays are ridiculous - just think about the delays seen in these pocket airports because every commuter in your area needs to be scanned/groped before being allowed to start their commute.

Re:No way (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584802)

There are no security checks at general aviation airports, TSA/DHS has no plans for security checks, they are essentially like cars but rules dictated by the FAA rather than the state or provincial DMV

Re:No way (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584910)

12:00 No plans for security checks.
12:01 "Hey, Bob, if we have security theatre at general aviation airports, we will be in line for some sweet kickbacks!"
12:02 Plans for security checks formulated.

Re:No way (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584980)

I find that absolutely amazing. I don't want to go off on a tangent, but if it is so easy to get on to a plane at a general airport, then why was 9/11 tied to those bigger planes? In other words, why didn't the terrorists use these smaller planes? Maybe smaller planes would be less destructive. That makes me wonder.

Re:No way (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585142)

Shortly after 9/11 some kid flew a small plane into a building in Florida and no on remembers.

Re:No way (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585200)

Because a 767 full of fuel for a transcontinental flight is the biggest non-nuclear explosive yet invented. Oh and because even the one that landed in a field in Pennsylvania killed a couple hundred people.

Re:No way (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585002)

There are no security checks at general aviation airports, TSA/DHS has no plans for security checks, they are essentially like cars but rules dictated by the FAA rather than the state or provincial DMV

I understand that, but 1) those had already existed for many decades pre 9/11; and 2) I don't share your faith in statements such as "TSA/DHS has no plans for security checks" when policy is driven more by political concerns than practical security. I expect scanning to come to regional airports, and sooner rather than later.

Re:No way (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585210)

Nah, scanners won't come to regional airports or the GA section of the larger airports because politicians and the people who pay them bribes fly out of those areas and they don't want to be inconvenienced like the sheep.

Re:No way (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584986)

There is no major reason for security checks if you are flying a small plane by yourself. If you crash it into a building it wouldn't be any worse than crashing a car into it. In commercial flights, you have the potential to kill 100s or 1000s of people if you manage to bring it down, while in a small plane you will most likely only kill yourself.

Re:No way (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585118)

True, the same reasoning is why you don't need safety checks, insurance or a licence to operate a motorcycle.

3D travel today! (5, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584750)

"The gridlock we face now is going to get worse," Seeley stated, citing research into congestion on the world's roads. "This is a form of insanity... We need to travel in 3D."

Hmm let's see: some form of transportation to link neighborhoods, that works in 3D, to relieve gridlocks? Remove the insane flying-vehicle thing, make it cheap and practical, and you've got yourself a metro.

Instead of dreaming up shit like this, policymakers should bring back light-rail, which can work under or over streets, carries a great deal of people quickly, silently and without local air pollution, and doesn't cost a lot.

Re:3D travel today! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34584902)

The problem with light or any kind of rail ,is that populations shift locations.
Imagine tearing up the rials every 20 years or so. Imagine trying to secure
the right-of-way every 20 years. Imagine laser printers that actually fire
lasers.

Re:3D travel today! (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584956)

"Imagine tearing up the rials every 20 years or so."

That's what civil engineers are for. Typically, well-designed light rails will lead to major metropolitan areas (Like the Plano to Dallas light rail.)

"Imagine trying to secure the right-of-way every 20 years."

Again, proper civil engineering will make that a non-issue.

Re:3D travel today! (4, Interesting)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585128)

Well-designed light rails or metro systems lead to even higher population densities in the areas they service. This is especially noticeable in crowded cities like Moscow, Beijing etc. where the prices of apartments drop off beyond the last metro ring, dramatically as in "orders of magnitude", because without the metro, tenants cannot reach anything in these otherwise gridlocked cities, making it uninteresting for "urbanite"-minded people.

Problem is: some 10-40% of all people will try to escape urban areas of high population density if they can somehow afford it, because that's what they ultimately and strongly want. These "pioneer"-minded people (for lack of a better word) are not abandoning the city because of bad metro systems, traffic jams, but fleeing noise and their fellow humans when there's too many of them close by. A high population density means a rapid decrease in effectiveness of police, law and social norms enforcement, which is the reason people are fleeing away from it. A metro system coming to them is simply iterating the cycle of "urbanites" flowing in and "pioneers" moving out.

Re:3D travel today! (2)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585232)

The problem is everyone tries to "fix the problem" and don't spend any time asking what people want and need. In the US light or heavy rail passenger transportation is great if people are interested in going from point A to point B. Beyond that everything breaks down, the same is true of most forms of public transportation. American cities are designed for automobiles, so give the people what they want a car to drive the last mile (or 10) at each end of their trip, better yet build a rail system that lets them take the car with them. Drive your electric micro car from your house to the local train station loading point, drive it onto specially built train cars for short commutes stay in the car, let it recharge on the commute into the city. Unload at the station a mile or two from your office and drive the rest of the way there. While your at it invite the existing support industries in to help out, get your morning coffee fix or Mc whatever delivered to your car window on the commute (inverse drive through window approach). For longer commutes add dining cars, rent by the hour meeting cubicles, whatever else. Imagine a business trip on a train where a group from one office can get work done while in transit even if the transit takes 3 times longer than flying.

Re:3D travel today! (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584934)

Where do you get the quick, silent, cheap light rail systems from? All the ones I have seen are none of those.

Re:3D travel today! (1)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585138)

Hong Kong. It's cheap, efficient, clean, safe, and actually makes a profit.

Re:3D travel today! (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585238)

Assuming for a while that profit reports from state-sponsored companies in at least partially Communist countries can be trusted, the reasons behind a successful metro systems usually have something to do with a high or extreme population density.

Outside of SE Asian culture, population density cannot reach these heights without extreme adverse effects like countless social norm infractions, violence and generally high crime rates. Contrasted with a guilt-society like the West, a shame-society like SE Asia would probably be the exact opposite: less and minor infractions happening in high density areas because of a higher shame-exposure, where in guilt-societies, the least crime would happen in lower density areas, because of a much higher guilt-exposure when potential offenders would know their victims by name.

Probably related: metro stations in SE Asia are not always clean, but always clean of graffiti. metro stations in the West, no matter how clean they are, always have some graffiti somewhere.

So in short, packing people like in Hong Kong works well if the people have a SE Asian cultural background. Other people and other cultural backgrounds yield different results.

Re:3D travel today! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34585192)

Well, Japan's are quick and reasonable silent (more silent than the constant hum of most large US roads).
Taiwan's are cheap (to ride on, not to build).
Perhaps China's maglev is silent?

Re:3D travel today! (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585110)

Hmm let's see: some form of transportation to link neighborhoods, that works in 3D, to relieve gridlocks? Remove the insane flying-vehicle thing, make it cheap and practical, and you've got yourself a metro.

The problem is, once you remove the "insane flying-vehicle thing", you also remove a dimension - a metro is a 2D system, not 3D. This also negates the primary advantage of a 3D system, the ability to travel directly from any arbitrary point in the network to another arbitrary point. In a 2D (metro) system you can only traveling to arbitrary nodes (assuming there is a station there) frequently requires changing trains or extended travel times.
 

Instead of dreaming up shit like this, policymakers should bring back light-rail, which can work under or over streets, carries a great deal of people quickly, silently and without local air pollution, and doesn't cost a lot.

Well, you're pretty much right - except for the "doesn't cost a lot" part. The primary problem with light rail is that it does cost a lot, the secondary problem being that it isn't actually generally all that convenient.

Re:3D travel today! (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585480)

- a metro is a 2D system, not 3D.

Actually, most larger metro systems are 3d, with tunnels in varying depths, and lines happily crossing underneath or over each other

In a 2D (metro) system you can only traveling to arbitrary nodes (assuming there is a station there) frequently requires changing trains or extended travel times.

On a well designed system, you should be able to get from any station to any other one changing at most once. And frequency should be high enough that changing is not too time-consuming.

the secondary problem being that it isn't actually generally all that convenient.

The metro in Paris actually works quite well (when it is not on strike).

Every now and then some genius brings this back up (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34585260)

One more time, with feeling: terminal-based transport systems depend for their efficiency on the ability to get people efficiently to and from the terminals, and being sufficiently rapid between those terminals at a reasonable price point to justify the inconvenience attached to not using personal transport.

If nobody has personal transport above the level of walking, things like buses become compelling within a wide speed and price envelope.

If everybody has a scooter, trains and planes need to be practically door-to-door to be justifiable for short haul work, and anything with high terminal frequency (i.e. frequent stops, like a bus) becomes unattractively slow by comparison.

The article is largely discussing the last-hundred-mile problem for air travel, not a private aircraft for everyone (although it doesn't preclude that either). It does not require density of destinations for its viability.

Light rail can be brilliant in a truly dense environment in which there are large numbers of travellers either embarking or disembarking at any given terminal, under circumstances where personal transport is infeasible or impractical. The typical example considered is Manhattan. People by their thousand go from densely packed, well defined areas to densely packed, well defined areas at predictable, consistent times, resulting in excellent cost per passenger results.

If, on the other hand, you want to get everybody from Nowhere, Nebraska's regional airport to within ten miles of any point within a hundred miles on demand, any form of rail is arguably about the worst solution imaginable short of closing your eyes and clicking your heels, with a vast capital investment, diffuse travel times and destinations, low convenience compared to car, truck, motorcycle, SUV, scooter or, for that matter, horseback.

The problem with light rail in the typical american suburban environment is that suburbs are not dense. This is important, because if your light rail is sufficiently distant to motivate a car ride, you're not saving that much (even ignoring the monstrous thieves' paradises called park-and-rides). Even assuming a modest plot size of 1/8 acre per household (roughly 5000 square feet) you have only about 5000 households per square mile. Not everyone can use the light rail, for a variety of reasons, not everyone will use it at the same time, for a variety of reasons, and not every household even will contain people who would have the need. It would be a busy train that had one percent of households in three miles of the station providing a rider - and I'll guarantee you that the people more than two miles away are not, as a rule, walking.

Flying is safe, efficient and fast. It is inconvenient and expensive. The article is outlining an approach to making it significantly less inconvenient in a flexible way, with relatively low capital inputs. Achieving the same level of access and flexibility across an area covered by the proposed air taxi terminals, using light rail, would be a civil engineering feat which beggars the imagination. It would be an individual tram service with rails running everywhere in a 100 mile radius. You might as well have regular taxis using regular roads, for smaller capital and running costs.

Proposing light rail, or any rail, under circumstances where you would have trouble filling three rail cars at rush hour, with frequent stops, is fiscal, environmental and logistical madness. It is no coincidence that the USA has a rail service which leads the world for freight, but treats passengers (outside the confines of dense population centres) as a rare luxury use.

Honestly, light rail is a suburban greenfreak's wankfest. It sounds so green and clean until you do the math. Then they either close their eyes and reverently invoke Gaia, pretending that the light rail infrastructure is somehow a trail of unicorn sighs and panda smiles, or change their minds. Light rail doesn't tread more lightly than road unless and until you explicitly tear up the road and convert it to forest/meadow/whatever, and is actually worse in carbon per mile than even nightmarishly huge SUV's unless it has a decent ridership, which out of peak it doesn't. It doesn't save time, it rarely saves money, it doesn't solve the last mile problem, and only under ideal circumstances the last 10 miles problem.

Disclaimer: I hate cars, and I hate roads, and as soon as we have a serial hybrid truck, or a fast-charging electric truck with a realistic (over 300 miles) range I'm buying one for my work. None of this obliges me to rub my genitalia on every halfwitted mass transport idea someone proposes.

Re:3D travel today! (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585464)

Hmm let's see: some form of transportation to link neighborhoods, that works in 3D, to relieve gridlocks? Remove the insane flying-vehicle thing, make it cheap and practical, and you've got yourself a metro.

A Metro? Gloomy tunnels in which you will be robbed and knife- or gunpoint? Expensive underground construction work that strain the city's budget? And how do you evacuate people if there's a fire?

No, you should prefer a tramway. It's much greener, and also affords you a nice view of the city. You should be proud of your public transportation, and show it in the open, rather than shamefully burying it underground!

You lost me at "that requires little fossil fuel" (4, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584792)

There is a fundamental difference between internal combustion engines and other technologies: they have *phenomenal* power-to-weight and energy-to-weight ratios.

There is a fundamental difference between aircraft and other vehicles: if their power-to-weight ratio is too low, they do not fly. An underpowered car is an underpowered car, but an underpowered plane is not a plane.

There is a reason why nobody invented a workable aircraft until 1905, and it's not because everybody who tried before the Wright brothers was an idiot.

==================
Example:

A set of lithium-ion batteries plus a modern electric motor of the type used in hybrid cars has a power-to-weight ratio of about 250 W/kg, and an endurance of 20-30 minutes at that power level. A small aircraft engine, including fuel tank, has a power-to-weight ratio of about 1000 W/kg, and an endurance of several hours.

For most small passenger aircraft, if you increase the weight of the power system by a factor of four, they will be too heavy to get off the ground. (Example: Cessna Skycatcher, engine weight 100 pounds, "spare" weight limit with only the pilot aboard: 150 pounds)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cessna_162 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium-ion_battery [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power-to-weight_ratio#Electric_Motors.2FElectromotive_Generators [wikipedia.org]

Re:You lost me at "that requires little fossil fue (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584968)

No fossil fuel doesn't necessarily preclude internal combustion, or require batteries. Bio-diesel or nuclear are two options I can think of off the top of my head - although they come with their own slew of problems. That's why they're having a competition - so smart people can run headlong into these problems and take them out.

Re:You lost me at "that requires little fossil fue (3, Interesting)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585230)

Once you're done pooh-poohing the idea of electric airplanes, go and use your google and wiki-fu to look up the following:
* Yuneec e430 electric LSA
* Sonex E-Flight
* Cessna Skyhawk electric 172 POC

Re:You lost me at "that requires little fossil fue (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585288)

Did you say idiot? Really? Familiar with the type, are you? Mirror nearby?

I wish (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584800)

I really wish something like this finally got off the ground: http://emdrive.com/ [emdrive.com] Microwaves in one end, thrust out the other.

.

Q. How can the EmDrive produce enough thrust for terrestrial applications?
A. The second generation engines will be capable of producing a specific thrust of 30kN/kW. Thus for 1 kilowatt (typical of the power in a microwave oven) a static thrust of 3 tonnes can be obtained, which is enough to support a large car. This is clearly adequate for terrestrial transport applications.

Re:I wish (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584834)

For non-science majors, this can be compared to repulsorlifts in Star Wars. So while they cant really move anything, they can make stuff float. So a vehicle with one of these pointing downwards would float off the ground. Then a small jet or prop would propel it at speed.

Re:I wish (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584944)

Don't hold your breath, that's a cranky non-physical machine that does not, and can not do, the things it claims to do.

Re:I wish (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585178)

I could dig up similar quotes about PC's, the airplane, electricity, the car; pretty much any tech that doesn't conform to the current version of "normal".

Re:I wish (2)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585028)

Very interesting, but I wouldn't place too much confidence in their ability to actually achieve that kind of thrust any time soon. What they're currently demonstrating, under lab conditions, is less than half a newton per kilowatt, or about one ten-thousandth of the amount needed to support a car. For comparison, you can get around 120 N/kW (240 times their current max thrust) right now with a simple ducted fan, readily available online [icare-rc.com] . The 30 kN/kW figure is an extrapolation based on the ridiculously high amplification (Q) levels achieved in dedicated high-energy physics labs with finely-tuned, liquid-helium-cooled superconductors—not something you're likely to ever see in a personal automobile. They seem to be marketing their design mainly toward satellite/space use, where reaction mass is a limiting factor. For terrestrial applications, of course, reaction mass isn't really a problem; you can just use the surrounding atmosphere.

Re:I wish (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585144)

Ok, but if such an amplification cavity exists and is in use, then why cant we use it? At least for proof of concept. Set it up, turn it on. If it shoots out the ceiling, yay. If not, oh well.
While cars may be a pipe-dream for now, other things aren't.

At a calculated 3+ tonnes a KW, that's a lot of lift. A large platform with several of these strapped to it would be able to float something into space or in to high atmospheric orbit.

Launching a LEO rocket from the equator at 100,000 feet up takes a lot less propellant than launching it from sea level.

Alternatively, floating cities. Or weapons platforms. Or power generation.

In a more far fetched idea, how about a "staircase" of such platforms leading into space, each at a slightly higher altitude. With a cable tethered to each one, we could have a kind of space elevator or teleferic.

This isn't like fusion, where its always "20 years away". We literally have sci-fi future tech at our disposal right now. And we aren't doing anything with it...

Cool idea, but environmently friendly? (4, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584844)

A vastly better investment would be a multi-gigabit FTTH infrastructure to allow for actual tele-presence and remote working from the suburbs.

Commuting is stupid, as is most business travel.

Re:Cool idea, but environmently friendly? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584966)

This is what we need. We paid for it and we STILL don't have it.

Re:Cool idea, but environmently friendly? (2)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585124)

Telepresence can run on a few mbps, isn't "multi-gigabit" a tad overkill for such a task? It seems theses problems are no longer technical, they are all motivational and/or political.

10 More years (1)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584866)

I think that personal flight is a fantastic idea and let's face it, we all would love to zip around the sky in our own private air capsule.
I also think this can be managed, just not today.
Location based tech is growing by leaps and bounds, but it's not quite accurate enough for air travel. Certainly when we are talking about 10's of thousands of private people in the sky over residential areas.

That however, is not a good reason not to begin the ground work. People in my company always complain when we want to change things; yeah, but first we would need to have this and then we need to do that and it would take a lot of time and blah blah blah.
I always tell them, sure, that may well be true, but that only means we need to starting walking in that direction now.

Additionally, I see a lot of folks saying, no no no, Metro is the way to go, not stupid private air cars.
I 100% agree that the Metro is the way to go is we could only pick one way to travel. Lucky for us there are no physical laws preventing multiple transportation modes working together in a cohesive system.

Amazed I haven't see this yet... (1)

Agent__Smith (168715) | more than 3 years ago | (#34584874)

Where is the obligatory reference to MOLLER that usually accompanies this type of story? LOL

Pocket Airports (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34584948)

What, like train stations?

Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34585054)

Perhaps they can partner with Moller. I hear they are getting close to a breakthrough...

Has anyone talked about Robo-Rail? (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585082)

One reason cars took off and rail remained the solution for freight is that cars can drive to different locations. What if someone made a rail network where the switches to different rails was done completely by computer? You get in your mini rail car, program your destination... Then the computer routes you to your destination... Everyone talks about the self driving car, but that technology is at least 10 years down the road. We could technologically roll out robo-rail in a year or two. We have all the technologies for robo-rail. The problem is the infrastructure is all set up for cars. So you need to be creative on the roll out, maybe wire up a community with them so you park outside the city, but in the city, it is all robo-rail taxis.

My question is: Why isn't the tech community talking about Robo-Rail a lot? All you hear about is self driving cars.

The problem with air travel is TSA (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585114)

"...by the time travelers have made their way by ground to their city’s one main airport, and then traveled again by ground from the destination airport to their final destination point, the speed with which the waiting airliner will get them there has been negated.

The author forgets to mention the TSA. 20 years ago, you could show up at the airport 30 minutes before you flight, and have plenty of time. It's now 90 minutes.

The vision of small, efficient aircraft flying short distances is lovely. But first, our government must get its head out, and abolish the TSA and all the security regulations is has created. Otherwise, you will probably be faster on your bicycle.

Re:The problem with air travel is TSA (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585420)

These things wouldn't need TSA, they are planned to be fully automous vehicles, assigned a route by central computer so that it doesn't intersect any other flight path, it's not like they are going to have a flight stick in the central console that you can assume manual control over. Even if you can find a way of directly controlling the flight of the plane, I suspect it would be trival to have a remote override to kill the engines and deploy the parachute.

If you cannot control the vehicle, can't hurt anyone else because of the low number of people on board and a fairly obvious way for a remote controller to completely disable the plane even if you do somehow control the plane, why would you need TSA at all?

cart horse (0)

hairyfish (1653411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585134)

Before we devote another another joule of energy designing flying cars, can someone first explain how such a system would ever be feasible? Jetson fantasies aside, the entire concept is flawed from top to bottom. Regulations, safety, efficiency, cost, saftey, logistics and saftey. It can never work, why do people persist?

Re:cart horse (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585448)

From the effciency/cost argument. I think they are arguing that with enough of these things buzzing around, you don't need such a massive road network. People always forget about the cost of building and maintaining roads because the cost is largely externalised to the user, most roads are paid for with tax of some sort or other and so is free at the point of use, but it's still a massive cost and environmentally damaging.

A large number of small airports would just need the few hundred meters of runway and a road leading from the port to the town.

I don't know whether that financially makes sense given you wouldn't be able to completely give up on the road network to allow for intercity heavy freight, you would only be able to reduce the capacity by removing the large number of commuter vehicles.

Futurama title sequence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34585370)

The New York slide...

Denver Beltway (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34585440)

According to the book DIA and Other Scams [goodreads.com] , there was a plan in the 1930's to build a ring "beltway" around Denver -- in approximately the same area as the current C-470/E-470/NW Parkway, i.e. 25-mile diameter) -- that would be not for cars, but rather be a continuous take-off/landing strip for airplanes -- take-off and land anywhere.

One possible winner decades ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34585456)

They are running a competition? How about a PROVEN design that has great flight capabilities and has been proven for decades? Take off in about 250 feet and get a range of 750km too fuel based. What is it? Tada! The Cri-Cri. Just work on the automation part and the batteries. Oh wait, they just recently got a car working lately and think they can do aircraft now?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...