Feeds

NASA flying-car man designs electric VTOL podcraft

'Puffin' tailsitter offers just 6 minutes' hover, though

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A NASA engineer long obsessed with flying cars has produced a concept design for a one-man, electrically powered helicopter/plane/glider podcraft. However the work was done largely without backing from NASA, and designer Mark Moore admits that battery technology must improve massively before the design becomes practical.

Moore, employed at NASA's Langley research centre in Virginia, is working on the "Puffin" aircraft - so dubbed because both are environmentally friendly and both look as though they can't fly* - with various partner organisations: MIT, Georgia tech, the US National Institute of Aerospace and private firm M-DOT.

Moore has long been a zealot in the cause of Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs, aircraft for everyman - essentially flying cars). He was formerly in charge of an actual NASA PAV project, which had a budget of $10m and was planned to produce a demonstrator "Tailfan" aircraft by last year.

The Tailfan would have been basically a light plane, but powered by a silenced car engine and fitted with a silenced ducted fan rather than a noisy propeller. The quiet Tailfan would have been capable of operating to and from from small airstrip-laybys in residential areas, and with the addition of modern robo-autopilot/air-traffic equipment (and perhaps the ability to drive on roads like the Terrafugia Transition) might have turned into a true PAV in time.

In the event, bosses at Langley "redirected funding" and terminated NASA's PAV activities in 2005. There was a NASA-funded tech prize, the PAV Challenge, but that was subsequently rebranded the "General Aviation Technology Challenge" and has now become the "Green Flight Challenge" - seeking aircraft which are low-carbon rather than ones which anybody could use.

But Moore evidently doesn't give up easily, because here he is back again with the Puffin. The aircraft's cunning landing-gear/tail, cleverly designed wing flaps and fiendish use of the many excellences of electric motors should allow it to operate somewhat like the "Tailsitter" prototypes of yesteryear, as opposed to today's Osprey tiltrotor. Rather than the rotors tilting and fuselage maintaining attitude, the whole lot will tip over into forward flight after making a vertical takeoff; and tip back again for landing to set down on its tail.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.