Concept-engineered by NASA in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the National Institute of Aerospace, and M-DOT Aerospace, the Puffin aircraft design shows just how far personal, electrically propelled flight could change the ways we live and get around, according to Scientific American.
The Puffin features vertical-takeoff and landing capability. But rather than tilting the rotors forward for horizontal flight, the whole craft — cockpit and all — pitches forward, meaning the pilot flies from a prone position. During takeoff and landing the tail splits into four legs that serve as landing gear, and flaps on the wings deploy to keep the aircraft stable as it lifts and descends. When landing, the extending spring legs would support the 3.7-meter-long, 4.1-meter-wingspan craft, which is designed with carbon-fiber composites to weigh in at 135 kilograms, not including 45 kilograms of rechargeable lithium phosphate batteries.
In theory Puffin’s can cruise at 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) and peak at more like 300 miles per hour 480 km/h). Puffin’s range would be the most limiting characteristic, at just 50 miles, but that's simply a matter of battery density. Batteries are growing more dense by the day, so in coming years that range could be drastically improved. [Hat Tip to Richard Dell, Jr.]