Feeds

NASA flying-car man designs electric VTOL podcraft

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

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Only 6 minutes' hover before flat battery - or just 3 if you want to go somewhere

So cunning is this design that Moore reckons just 45 kilowatts of power will suffice to lift the Puffin and its pilot off the ground. Unfortunately, while electric motors are great they generally mean the use of batteries - which aren't great at all, even today. The Puffin has just 45kg of them, which with present-day lithium phosphate technology means only 4500 watt-hours of juice: in other words the machine can hover for about six minutes before its batteries run flat.

Moore has told the press that the Puffin could fly in tipped-over plane mode for 20 minutes, achieving a range of 80 km. Previous remarks of his have suggested energy consumption of around 7.5 kW in the cruise for such aircraft, indicating that there'd also be juice for around 90 seconds' hovering at each end of such a journey - not much time for dithering, certainly.

As it stands, then, the Puffin is pretty marginal as a means of flying from place to place: though it could make an impressive glider, the more so as its props would be able to act as turbines in forward flight, recharging the batteries as the Puffin glided down. Electric motors don't lose performance with height, but propellors do: however the machine - if not its pilot - would be theoretically capable of reaching 30,000 feet, reportedly.

Even so, in the current state of battery tech the Puffin is no more than a curiosity. Moore and his colleagues hope to have a scaled-down prototype flying within months, and have suggested that military customers might like the design as it stands - it would be no noisier "than a conversation", apparently, and having no exhausts would boast low infrared signatures.

But the Puffin isn't vastly more capable than existing jetpacks or minicopters, and the military has conspicuously failed to embrace them. Hopeful commentary along the lines of "let's not forget who put men on the Moon" is out of place here, too - NASA has shown quite clearly that it is uninterested in PAVs.

Even so, there's hope for aspiring electric hover-pod pilots yet. Moore believes that battery energy densities could triple in coming years, which would make Puffin-style craft much more useful. ®

*Puffins genuinely can't fly in winter, when they moult their flight feathers and become groundbound. Hopefully not an omen. (The puffin is environmentally friendly, according to Moore, "because it hides its poop".)

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.