Called "Puffin," the conceptual and highly experimental project is part one-man stealth plane, part personal jet pack.
Unveiled at a San Francisco meeting of the American Helicopter Society on Jan. 20 by Mark D. Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, the Puffin promises -- on paper at least -- a self-contained design with proper "cockpit" and helicopter-style blades that allow for high-altitude flying up to 30,000 ft.
The Puffin is intended to be 12 feet in length, with a total wingspan of 14.5 ft., and would tip the scales at 300 pounds, empty. It will be powered by a 60 horsepower electric motor for simplicity, reliability and low environmental impact.
The reason for this conceptual device? Covert military missions ("swoop and shoot," if I may) or rescue operations.
Take a look at the video:
Why the name "Puffin," by the way? “If you’ve ever seen a puffin on the ground, it looks very awkward, with wings too small to fly, and that's exactly what our vehicle looks like,” said Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA Langley Research Center, in an article in Scientific American.
According to that article, the Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers per hour -- that's 149 mph -- and dash at more than 480 kph, or almost 300 mph. NASA plans to finish a test mule at one-third-size by March to see how it transitions from cruising to hovering.
But you never know how such technology could eventually manifest itself in the consumer space. If you ask me, I may have found a whole new way to get to the office.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com