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NASA’s Puffin: The Personal Electric Air Vehicle, posted in Electric Cars, Future Energy, Transportation.


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NASA’s Puffin: The Personal Electric Air Vehicle

News » Energy | Biofuels | Environment | Hydrogen | Solar | Transportation | Wind
April 14th, 2010 - View Comments

NASA Puffin Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer, is the person who dreamed about the Puffin. Puffin is a single seated electric powered airplane. Moore conceptualized the idea of electric aircraft for his doctoral degree. Operating it from your house is as simple as taking out your car from the garage. You can launch this aircraft from your own home because of vertical take-off and landing. Mark Moore is trying to combine the best feature of a plane and a helicopter into a hybrid known as the Puffin. The Puffin is not some abstract reality that is not going to take a concrete shape.

YouTube: NASA’s Puffin | More Videos

Moore is an expert in small aircraft flying system. He is working with NASA, MIT and the National Institute of Aerospace to turn Puffin into a reality. This electric aircraft would be 12-foot (3.7 m) long, and have a 14.5-foot (4.4 m) of wingspan. Puffin is already a hit in the Internet community. Moore himself tells the whole story, “The animation of the Puffin on YouTube has gotten more 648,000 hits in a week. Until the concept was mentioned in the media Jan. 19, the video had only been clicked on a couple of thousand times since it was uploaded to the NASAPAV channel last November.” The animation was created by Analytical Mechanics Associates graphic designers.

Another characteristic of the Puffin is it can take pilot up to 50 miles at a cruising speed of 150 mph. It’s also lightweight, totaling up to just 181kg when fully loaded with the batteries. But its greatest advantage without doubt is the zero carbon emission. The design would be powered by a total of 60 horsepower through electric motors, which are designed to be able to fail any two powertrain components on either side and still produce the required power to hover. It has a cruising speed of 150 mph (241 kph), but cruises more efficiently at lower speeds The range with current battery technology would be about 50 miles (80 km).

Moore draws the analogy between actual puffin bird and his own puffin. Puffin’s wings also look quite small for flying. Moore’s creation aircraft would also have small wings. He states another similarity between his bird and nature’s bird, “But it’s also apparently called the most environmentally friendly bird, because it hides its poop. So the vehicle is environmentally friendly because it essentially has no emissions. Also, puffins tend to live in solitude, only ever coming together on land to mate, and ours is a one-person vehicle.”

Puffin would be a hybrid of helicopter and small aircraft. Like a helicopter it would stand upright on the ground. Its tail consists of 4 legs that act as landing gear. It lifts off like a helicopter. When it hovers and leans forward to fly horizontally it gives the appearance of a hang-glider. Next step of the NIA will be to fly a remote control one-third size model. This experiment will enable them to validate theorems made in academic studies, with the particular emphasis on exploring the transition from hover to forward flight.

What do you think?

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  • Joel

    I think this wont do much, maybe moller flying car can be the solution, to aircars, but they must copy some of this ideas like fly with heli wings, cause using turbines is so expensive and noisy.

  • Euroflycars

    This aircraft concept is a very old one, well known by the NASA itself for not being feasible because of its incapacity of autorotation as well as poor handling reactivity at hovering — unless it had cyclic blade pitch variation like a helicopter.

    The aim of such NASA-labelled projects is to divert attention from other, purposeful projects like Sikorsky’s X2 — which, besides, was deprived of DARPA- funding because of its high potential as a future substitute for the motor car.

    It should not be forgotten that all the necessary navigation resources are now redundantly available for a historical break-through in personal mobility based on massively popularized personal aircraft — and the X2 is the first concept ever eligible in this view.

  • Boneheaded1

    Practical? Just a vision or a future reality? Who cares. Sounds cool. Wouldn’t mind having one. Certainly would make my commute better.

  • Francisco A Roque

    I feel this man could be the one to replicate the Tesla electric car.

  • Chris

    I just hope the requirements for a license to drive a Puffin are considerably higher than they are for a license to drive a car.

  • Justin

    I just keep thinking this thing isn’t very crash-worthy. It would be a head first pile driver with nothing but plexi between your head and the earth.

  • Robert Coates

    HA! Most folks can’t operate an automobile safely! Can you imagine a few million of them flying around in such aircraft? Might make horses come back in style!

  • Escobar

    Can you say ‘neck cramp’? Looks very cool until you realize you’re going to be holding your head in a really awkward position.

  • Jason

    Would love to see the day when everyone flies personal aircrafts

  • Uncle B

    Folks at NASA are in a wage category just high enough to stay out of touch with realities of the Burgeoning Asian Growth demands on finite resources of the world, oil included, and America’s inability to adapt and convert from a foreign liquid energy economy to a domestic electric powered economy! Folks at NASA think the common American will be able to afford such contraptions when what they really need is nuclear Power plants to drive Electric bullet Trains and subways too and from home and factory, and modern dormed factories such as found in China, and built with American capital I might add! The average Yankee Doodle can hardly afford his 4 cylinder Asian built car as we speak, while the Uber-Rich at NASA smoke hi-grade columbian which they can well afford, and dream of a day when their fantasies become realities – not gonna happen! America is broke flat on her ass and faces rising competition from Asians as we speak!

  • Geofrey Damner

    Such a plane could conceivably snatch a power line buoyed over a runway to land on shore power a la Nukular Submarine.

  • spuffler

    FAA would have a big issue with this.

  • DougTheBug

    I have to agree with Uncle B.

    This may have been a nice dream 10 years ago.

    Today’s “dreams” need to be practical and yes… based on relatively conventional means. Flying cars? Will not happen for at least 50 years. Forget it.

  • Microhousehold

    Would be nice to combine this into a hybrid helicopter-airship for a few people. We could save billions on motorways. Safety would require some kind of traffic lights at busy routes.

    All good ideas start as a dream.

  • James

    Flight is very unforgiving of fools. This is a good way to clear the fools from the gene pool.

  • Ted Sumrall

    NASA is one of the few government run organizations that have realized a return on the tax payer’s investment. They have come up with some wild ideas and I hope they are onto something here and wish them success. The scientific contributions of NASA are unparalleled and if the Puffin is as successful as the Hubble (early failures not withstanding) then it will become a reality. Theodore Sumrall, Ph.D.

  • Ralph Perez

    3 other ideas could also be incorporated.

    1-Swappable lithium battery (as supplemental clean power).

    2-Solar/wind charger for this battery. Yeah, sorry but … the fuel would end up being free..

    3-Keep the “can’t do”, “its impossible”, “20 years from now” prognosticators and politicians out of it. Quantum leaps in construction & industry are possible. Once the disinformation from the existing monopolies is overcome.

  • Daria Koukoleva

    This is a good idea because roads are taking up loads of space. And if each one of us had a spot near our house where could park our Puffins, there wouldn’t be much trouble at all. They should give it a go and see what the effect will turn out to be. If all is really good – think about airplanes transformed into huge Puffins, airports and ‘their’ roads take up too much space and this vertical lift-off would be perfect!!!

    P.S. Stop dreaming, start realizing.

  • jojo

    It all comes down to battery technology. The energy required for vertical take offs and landings would probably suck out a great portion of the charge contained in the batteries. They don’t specify in the clip the range of this “puffin” other than something like “modest” or “short”. My guess is that the answer is in the order of 15/25 minutes range at most with the best batteries available today.
    Nice toy though.

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