July 18, 2008
—A trio of energy-efficient planes designed by students at Georgia Institute of Technology soars through calm skies in an artist's conception. NASA announced last week that this futuristic vision for commercial aircraft won top honors in the graduate student division of the agency's 2008 Fundamental Aeronautics Student Competition.
Entrants were asked to create "the next generation, 21st-century, 'DC-3'-type aircraft." Reduced noise and environmental impacts, daily operation on short runways, and the ability to carry payloads of up to 50,000 pounds (22,680 kilograms) all had to be part of the package.
Passengers on the winning Georgia Tech plane wouldn't even hear an engine roar until they reached the end of the runway, because the plane would taxi on battery power. Electric propellers used for an initial boost would fold into the plane after takeoff to reduce drag.
Team member Kemp Kernstine, a graduate student in aeronautical engineering, said aviation needs a revolution.
"With fuel cost increasing on a daily basis and our supply quickly dwindling, if we don't do something fast, we may lose this wonderful means of transportation," Kernstine said. Other team members were Bryan Boiling, Alexis Brugere, Steve Gatto, Kevin Johnson, Mathieu Lanusse, Andrew Masse, and Keith Turner.
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Image by Georgia Tech/Courtesy NASA