January 21, 2010
NASA Announces Designs for Personal Flying Suit
By DAN SALTZSTEIN
A conceptional rendering of the Puffin personal flying suit. Forget the Segway. Leave that jet pack behind. NASA is working on a personal flying suit.
Conceptual designs for the experimental vehicle, called Puffin, were introduced by Mark D. Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, at a meeting of the American Helicopter Society on Jan. 20 in San Francisco. The Puffin is designed to be 12 feet in length, with a total wingspan of 14 and a half feet; it would weigh in at 300 pounds (without a pilot).
Two major elements distinguish the Puffin suit from the jet packs of ’50s-era sci-fi flicks. First, it is completely self-contained: the pilot would actually step into the suit, which has a cockpit-like area and helicopter-style blades, allowing for high-altitude flying (unlike those sci-fi jet packs).
Second, it is designed to be powered by electric motors, making it relatively quiet, lightweight and more reliable (electric motors have fewer moving parts than conventional ones), and with a low environmental impact.
Of course, the Puffin is just a theory at the moment. It might be best used for covert military missions or rescue operations. But if it does emerge as an option for conventional flight, traffic jams might take on a whole new meaning.