For anyone who has ever dreamed of a speeding around the skies in a jet pack, NASA has proposed a solution. As reported by the NY Times, the space agency recently announced conceptual design plans for the Puffin, a personal flying suit that could take the world of aviation by storm.
Mark D. Moore is an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Moore recently introduced the contraption at the Jan. 20 meeting of the American Helicopter Society in San Francisco. The design, which looks rather like a personalized glider, would be 12 feet in length, with a total wingspan of 14 and a half feet. It would be a single-passenger carbon-fiber construction weighing 300 pounds empty, and it would travel at a speed of 150 miles per hour.
And just how would the Puffin fly? It would be an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle. Starting in a stand with its tail on the ground, the vehicle has an electric motor that would drive four blades. Propelled by two rotor disks, the Puffin would be much more energy-efficient than an airplane. It could achieve short-term sprints of almost 300 miles per hour and reach heights of 30,000 feet. This also means the pilot would need heat and supplemental oxygen.
At present, the practical downsides are short endurance — the Puffin would only be able to fly 50 mile jaunts at 20 minutes in the air. But NASA is already planning improvements to the proposed Puffin. Hopes are that by 2017 the contraption would be flying 175 miles per hour.
Obvious uses for the Puffin would be for covert military or even rescue operations. Translating into common, everyday use, it would give a quick hop to the grocery store a whole new meaning.
Related: See more NASA stories on MNN.