Jetpod vision a lift for commuters
By Simon Hooper for CNN
Jetpods would require just 300 meters for runway to take off and land.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Commuters of the future won't be trapped in trains or cars but flying across the countryside in airborne taxis.
From the pages of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" to the cinematic fantasy of Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element" via the cartoon capers of "The Jetsons," that has long been the vision of science fiction.
But a British company believes it could transform fantasy into reality within the next decade.
Perhaps motivated by the misery of traveling to work in one of the world's most congested cities, London-based Avcen have unveiled plans to develop jetpods -- small twin-jet aircraft capable of taking off and landing over much shorter distances than conventional light aircraft.
Using thrust management technology, the VQSTOL (Very Quiet Short Take-off and Landing) jetpod also reduces the noise of a regular jet engine by 50 percent, making it more comparable to a busy road.
And with a cruising speed of 350 miles per hour, the jetpod would be both quicker and quieter than a helicopter.
Requiring just 125 meters to take off and 300 meters to land, Avcen hopes busy city centers will embrace the jetpod, building elevated runways above harbors, roads and railway tracks to handle arrivals and departures from "park-and-fly" terminals located in the suburbs.
"We are expecting a great deal of interest from around the world in this new form of transportation that will see Short Take-off and Landing strips opening up inside world-class cities," said Avcen managing director Mike Dacre.
"Avcen will not transform inner city air transportation, we hope to introduce it. We know that cities like Moscow, Tokyo and New York are crying out for something like this and there's nothing remotely like it around."
With the jetpod able to make up to 50 landings a day, Avcen also believes its ability to make multiple journeys will keep prices down.
For instance, a journey from London's Heathrow Airport to the city center, a matter of a few minutes by jetpod, might cost around $90 -- comparable to an existing taxi fare.
"I sincerely hope that our design efforts result in an aircraft that will be remembered for bringing mass low-cost travel to cities," said Dacre.
With "proof of concept" test flights scheduled for 2006, Avcen hopes the first jetpods will cost around $1 million.
The company is also developing versions of the aircraft to be used as air ambulances, personal jets and by the military, including an unmanned rescue version that could be controlled remotely from 300 miles away.
"The day we carry out a remote UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) human rescue will be an historic one," said Dacre.