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'Puffin' - A stealthy personal aircraft

NASA's Puffin Aircraft. A NASA Langley/Analytical Mechanics Associates Photo.

A stealthy, hover-capable aircraft design conceptualised by NASA shows just how electric propulsion could change the way human beings travel and get around.

Meet 'Puffin' -- a new concept vehicle that could revolutionise the experience of traveling.

Puffin, which is a low noise, electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) personal air vehicle, relies on the principle of electric motors.

Puffin is the brainchild of Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer. It is 3.7m long with a wingspan of 4.4m. The airplane is designed to stand on its tail, which splits into four legs to help serve as landing gear.

The one-person air vehicle is named Puffin because it resembles the bird in many more ways including the environment friendly part.

According to NASA researchers, in principle, the proposed aircraft is small and very lightweight - about 300 pounds empty weight plus another 100 pounds of battery and 200 pounds for the pilot or payload. The reason for such less weight is the carbon composite construction including the lithium phosphate batteries.

The craft's design is powered by a total of 60 horsepower through electric motors.

It also has a cruising speed of 150 mph, but cruises more efficiently at lower speeds. The range with current battery technology is about 50 miles.

Puffin is also potentially ideal for military operations with its super-stealthy troop insertions with very low thermal signatures.

Currently, NASA is all geared up to finish a one-third size demonstrator by March and see how well it transitions from cruising to hovering.

NASA has spent about $500,000 on the Puffin, which was developed in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the National Institute of Aerospace and M-DOT Aerospace.

The vehicle was unveiled at a helicopter trade organization meeting in January, 2010.

- Courtesy:
Discovery News

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