The massive carbon footprint of air travel is a well-known fact. Just ask any environmental advocate who inevitably gets slammed for their carbon output after taking a long flight. But all the high-speed trains in the world won't make air travel any less of a necessity of modern life: A new solution for air travel is necessary.
That's why NASA launched their CAFE Green Flight Challenge, which asked engineers to design a plane that can fly "200 miles in less than two hours using the energy equivalent of less than one gallon of gasoline per occupant." And—with a hat tip to both the X Prize and Lindbergh's first transatlantic flight—they're offering $1.2 million in prize money.
This week, one of the participants, the Elektra, took its first flight, and you can watch it here:
So silent! And fully contrail-free, which is good, given recent news that contrails—those white lines behind airplanes—are even more harmful than previously thought, warming the planet more each day than all the carbon that planes produced while making the contrails.
The Elektra hasn't yet met the criteria for the Green Flight Challenge; this maiden flight was only 30 minutes, though it only used half the plane's current battery power. But if you can build an engine to take one man up for 30 minutes, with a little work and luck (and better battery technology), perhaps they could build an engine to take hundreds of people up for four or five hours. Extra bonus: it would be a lot more pleasant to live near airports.
[Photo: PC Aero]
[Hat tip: Popular Science]