Your Ideas for Developing Cheap, Quiet, and Clean Commercial Aircraft

United Airlines plane

When we asked FastCompany.com readers for ideas on how to stop the BP oil spill, you delivered—and then some. We highlighted a number of your creative solutions in subsequent posts, and now we have a new challenge: How can we make commercial aircraft significantly quieter, cleaner, and more economical by 2025?

NASA is soliciting proposals for clean, green, cheap aircraft, with the best ideas eligible for $36.6 million in contracts. Up to four teams will be selected in 2011. The agency explains the reasoning behind the Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project:

The projected growth of the air transportation system will increase emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, NOx, water vapor, and particulates, and the number of people exposed to airport noise. It is also widely believed that environmental and energy concerns will continue to grow as well, leading to increasingly stringent certification levels for noise and emissions, and an unending requirement for vehicle fuel efficiency improvements. All this must be achieved without adversely affecting the outstanding record of the global aeronautics enterprise for safety, reliability, and security.

NASA has a number of goals for the project, including:

  • 50% reduction in fuel use and nitrogen oxide emissions compared to today's planes 
  • 80% reduction in the "nuisance noise footprint" surround airports
  • Capability of an 8,000 km range with a 50,000 pound payload
  • Required cruise Mach number of 0.85

Think you have a potential solution for NASA's green aircraft challenge? Let us know in the comments. Check out NASA's official solicitation for ideas here.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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