Back to the Future of Personal Aviation
This paper reviews the status of personal aviation and proposes that information technology has made possible a personal aviation industry on a scale last imagined in the nineteen forties. The market goal of the system is 100 thousand sales per year, 100 times more than the current sales of general aviation airplanes. Seven specifications are set forth to meet the goal. They concern price, liability, performance, control, convenience, safety, and environmental impact. Helicopters and lift fans are examined in light of the specifications, but a kind of flying car seems more plausible. Personal aviation emerges as a system of three levels, including the Global Positioning System for navigation, an infrastructure called Skyways, and modular conveyances called Starcars that function as automobiles and airplanes. The system is under study at The University of Arizona, where a base station and mobile platform have been built to explore means for navigation, communication, and control.