What Are Personal Air Vehicles?

A personal air vehicle, or personal aerial vehicle, is an emerging family of aircraft that is centered around the idea of providing on-demand aviation services. The term was first coined by NASA in 2003 when they established their Personal Air Vehicle Sector Project, that of which is a part of the Aeronautics Vehicle Systems Program. While research and development of personal air vehicles has continued since the initial launch of the program, there have been various barriers that engineers and manufacturers seek to overcome to realize such technologies.

While many individuals may compare personal air vehicles to standard general aviation aircraft, there are various characteristics that set the two apart as separate technologies. As per the definition outline of a personal air vehicle, such aircraft are intended to seat less than 5 passengers, and they would specifically be designed for autonomous flight or may be piloted by someone holding a driver’s license. As a proposed alternative to the automobile, the personal air vehicle would permit an aerial based option for “door-to-door” transportation, and the original NASA proposal stated that operations could be accommodated with the use of small community airports near residential and commercial areas.

One of the main drives behind personal air vehicle development is the steady increase of automobile transportation across the globe. As more drivers are on the road, average doorstep-to-doorstep speeds are in steady decline and countless gallons of gasoline is regularly lost in traffic jams. On top of being able to quickly fly to various destinations, the personal air vehicle would utilize efficient power sources such as a fuel cell, electric battery, or alternative fuels to reduce emissions.

Before personal air vehicles may fully be realized as a widely available technology, there are various barriers they must first overcome. One of the biggest is air traffic control as the FAA would need to be highly overhauled in order to accommodate such an increase of air traffic. The FAA does have plans to upgrade the Next Generation Air Transportation System in the coming years, and interim plans have been formed with the intention of using smaller airports. The FAA would also require personal air vehicles to takeoff and land at controlled airfields if their noise would disrupt homes, businesses, and communities. One solution to this issue is using a Continuous Descent Approach (CDA), that of which is when the aircraft is maintained at a higher altitude while landing.

Beyond air traffic control, there are also concerns for range and safety. With the current use of electric batteries, the range of such vehicles are quite low. As a solution, fuel cell aircraft have been proposed which would utilize hydrogen for increased energy. As personal air vehicles would be used in urban settings, companies such as Sikorsky Aircraft state that the air mobility market needs to meet the safety of FAR Part 29. Since the 1977 Sikorsky S-61 helicopter accident in New York which was caused by failed landing gear, Sikorsky Aircraft has set their sights on a goal of one failure per 10 million hours for their vertical flight safety endeavors. As development for such vehicles continues, other manufacturers also seek ways to improve safety.

While personal air vehicles are still not a fully realized technology, several manufacturers have continued development on vehicles which seek to surpass the barriers holding such aircraft back. At Accelerating RFQs, we operate as a leading distributor of aircraft parts with over 2 billion items readily available for purchase today. If you are interested in specific parts that we currently list on our website, send us a completed RFQ form at your earliest convenience and a dedicated account manager will reach out in 15 minutes or less to provide a personalized quote for your comparisons. Experience how Accelerating RFQs can fulfill all your operational requirements with ease when you begin the part procurement process with us today.


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