WASHINGTON, DC – NASA has selected six proposals to study transformative ideas that might expand what’s possible in aviation, shifting the boundary between fantastic and futuristic.
During a day-long meeting in April, 17 teams pitched their ideas to NASA managers. The ideas ranged from environmentally-friendly electric propulsion that uses an aircraft’s structure as a battery, to computer programs that safely allow new airplane designs to go more quickly from concept to use. NASA managers likened the scene to a television reality show in which aspiring entrepreneurs try to sell their ideas to a panel of savvy investors.
“We may find none of these ideas will work,” said Doug Rohn, NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program director in the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). “On the other hand, we could learn they look promising and worth additional longer-term investment.”
Funded under NASA’s Convergent Aeronautics Solutions Project, the studies will run from two to 2.5 years. The project teams are made up of NASA employees from a variety of technical disciplines working across the agency’s aeronautics centers in Virginia, California and Ohio. Each study involves work across multiple centers and disciplines, and directly addresses at least one of NASA’s strategic research goals for aeronautics.
“The idea of the project is this is an investment process, where we’re using almost venture capital-like principles. But instead of money, our return on investment is in knowledge and potential solutions to future challenges in aviation,” Rohn said.
At the close of the project study period, successful ideas may be picked up and funded for additional exploration through other ARMD programs.