Feeds

NASA flying-car man designs electric VTOL podcraft

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

High performance access to file storage

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.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.