NASA – Puffin – The Electric Powered Personal Aircraft

Image Credit: NASA

This is what I want for my birthday.

NASA will unveil the Puffin at the meeting of the American Helicopter Society meeting in San Francisco, on 20 January 2010. Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center states that “if you’ve ever seen a puffin on the ground, it looks very awkward, with wings too small to fly, and that’s exactly what our vehicle looks like…”.

The craft has a carbon-fiber composite construction with a 4.1-meter-wingspan craft, and weighs in at 135 kilograms, not including 45 kilograms of rechargeable lithium phosphate batteries. The Puffin can lift a person with electric motors generating just 60 horsepower.

The Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers (150 miles) per hour, and has a top speed twice that. The limitation is a range of 80 kilometers (50 miles). As the article notes “many researchers are proposing a tripling of current battery energy densities in the next five to seven years, so we could see a range of 240 to 320 kilometers by 2017…”.

The Puffin stands on the ground on its tail, split into four legs that serve as landing gears. On take off, flaps on the wings tilt up to deflect the air from the rotors to keep the craft stable on the ground.

The 2.3-meter-wide propeller rotors lift the Puffin off the ground, and the craft tilts over to fly horizontally, with the pilot lying prone in the craft. The puffin in flight, using electric motors, is roughly 10 times quieter than current low-noise helicopters.

By March, the researchers plan on finishing a one third–size, hover-capable Puffin demonstrator, and in the three months following that they will begin investigating how well it transitions from cruise to hover flight.

Applications include personal travel and fast courier services.

Image Credit: NASA

Watch the animation from NASA on YouTube.

Like I said, this is my next birthday present.

Special thanks to Marcel Williams at New Papyrus for bringing this to our attention.

See the original article in Scientific American.


One thought on “NASA – Puffin – The Electric Powered Personal Aircraft

  1. Thanks for the credit!

    I’m a strong believer in NASA being more than just a space program but also an– aerospace program. I love X-planes and experiments like these! I wish NASA was given even a lot more money to experiment with tilt roters, and ducted fan aircraft (like in Avatar), blimps, and derigibles.

    Sure they may not all end up as commercially useful aircraft, but at least we’ll find out what works and what doesn’t.

    Its nice to dream about the future. But it takes real engineering and experimentation to advance our technology in order to grow our economy and improve our quality of life.

    And I want one of these things too!

    Marcel F. Williams

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