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NASA Designs All-Electric Personal Flight Vehicle

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the touch-the-sky dept.

Transportation 276

MikeChino writes "NASA is currently working on a personal aircraft that will put jet packs to shame. The Puffin is an all-electric one-man airplane that could be the start of some new and amazing air travel technology. With two prop electric engines, lithium phosphate batteries and a top speed of almost 300 mph, the vertical take off and landing vehicle was originally designed for covert military insertions because it has a lower heat signature than combustion engines. The Puffin would also be super quiet – 10 times quieter than current low-noise helicopters, and since the engine is electric it has no flight ceiling and can fly up to 9,150 meters high, uninhibited by thin air."

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"No flight ceiling" (5, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841504)

"since the engine is electric it has no flight ceiling and can fly up to 9,150 meters high, uninhibited by thin air." I presume they mean in this context no substantial flight ceiling where the engine gives out from lack of oxygen and you have a very bad day. That's backed up by the original article which says that "It has no flight ceiling--it is not air-breathing like gas engines are, and thus is not limited by thin air--so it could go up to about 9,150 meters before its energy runs low enough to drive it to descend." So in fact you could fly this much higher than 9,150 meters if you started out high up (from say a larger aircraft) or had a parachute. This leads to a question: How high up could it go before the air becomes too thin to generate enough lift to continue ascending?

Re:"No flight ceiling" (5, Interesting)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841674)

I'm not an engineer so I can't comment on the operating ceiling of the the thing but speaking as a former private pilot, 9,150 meters (FL 28, roughly) is already well above the point where the pilot-in-command would be allowed to operate without supplemental oxygen.In fact, up that high you'd be messing with the three-holer transport jets and would probably need a pretty high-quality heated flight suit.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841794)

Well Everest is just under 9km up, and people have scaled it without oxygen. However these were mountaineers, and not duty free guzzling pilots.

I also am completely unqualified in aerodynamics, but I would assume (most probably incorrectly) that the ceiling would be limited by the speed the rotors turn and also the length/surface area they have (assuming the pilot is appropriately dressed for the occasion).

I'm quite interested actually in any responses that could shed some light on this... seems pretty cool.

On a side note, we had here (in Australia) on "The New Inventors" some dudes that actually made a battery powered helicopter. It was kind of like a gyrocopter - pretty light weight 1 seater kind of thing. It had a pretty shitty filght time, on the order of minutes, but obviously they only used bog standard batteries (ie they didn't develop any special batteries or anything, "just" hooked them up to a motor and modified the gyro).

For those not familiar, the show basically has random people that have invented something come and show it to a panel, and they decide on a winner each week. It's pretty cool, you get anything from automatic sheep tilters(yes, that) to stuff that automatically re-sheaths pneumatic hoses. Riveting stuff :) .

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841886)

Well Everest is just under 9km up, and people have scaled it without oxygen.

And I assume they went from base to peak in just a few minutes, like a "duty free guzzling pilot" would?

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842216)

My point was not the time it takes to get up there, more the fact that people can actually breathe up there, but only though training and acclimatisation. I believe it only takes a few minutes for hypoxia to set in. At those altitudes, even feeling lightly unwell can have deadly repercussions.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (4, Informative)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841870)

The other factor is that the typical propeller does become less efficient as the air gets thinner, so there is still a ceiling. Jets (turbofans) have less of an issue with this. From a quick Google, It appears that above Flight Level 240 (24000) the majority of the thrust of a turbofan comes from the jet exhaust, while at sea level most of it comes from the fan.

For me, the sheer fear factor of looking down from 9000 meters (30,000 feet) in not much more than my flight suit would be more than I'd be ready for.

But I think this could be the inspiration for the long-awaited personal aerial commuter vehicle - especially if operation can be automated, and if the redundancy mentioned in TFA can achieve no-single-point-of-failure. If routing were handled by a central traffic control system, and local traffic position were handled by an agent swarm, it could work pretty well. The VTOL capabiliy means you could land in a parking space, or on the roof. And the 80 mile cruising range would be sufficient for commuting.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (0)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842222)

Or we could have flying vehicles avoiding each other by automatically 'repelling' according to a 3D sensor (whereby closer = repel harder).

Unless you want to remove the fun out of flying.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (2, Informative)

nicc777 (614519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842478)

"For me, the sheer fear factor of looking down from 9000 meters (30,000 feet) in not much more than my flight suit would be more than I'd be ready for."

As a skydiver with HALO experience I can tell you that there is nothing to fear. You do not really have depth (or is that height) perception at that altitude. Yes, everything does look tiny and as a skydiver I sometimes wonder if I will make the target (a football field looks like a tiny dot or button below). However, since this is powered flight, that's not really an issue.

Thank you, Google! (5, Funny)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842036)

PSA: don't blindly search Google if you want to find out what a "three-holer" is - I don't think any of the top hits are what he's referring to.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842182)

In the US, 17,000 ft and above is restricted airspace, you'd need permission to operate above that altitude.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (4, Funny)

rockNme2349 (1414329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841680)

That was my personal favorite quote.

It has no flight ceiling... so it could go up to about 9,150 meters

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842072)

From TFA:

so it could go up to about 9,150 meters before its energy runs low enough to drive it to descend

i.e. not a flight ceiling, a limitation of energy capacity.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1)

karlwilson (1124799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842262)

In aviation, a service ceiling is typically defined by the altitude that the aircraft can no longer sustain a 100 fpm climb. The only "aircraft" that don't have a service ceiling are those that go into orbit.

Earth to Orbit vehicle? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841756)

This is odd that someone hasn't already cashed in on this. Is this a possible precursor to a simple earth to orbit vehicle? From what I read in TFA, the limit quoted is simply due to the capacity of the batteries, however this uses a simple rotary blade system similar to a helicopter for lift. It would definitely fail when the atmosphere thinned out.

Can someone familiar with this type of design give an idea of exactly how high this could be expected to fly if the batteries were not the limiting factor?

Re:Earth to Orbit vehicle? (3, Informative)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841874)

This is odd that someone hasn't already cashed in on this. Is this a possible precursor to a simple earth to orbit vehicle?

    Not in any way, shape, or form. Getting to 20-30000 feet, if it was capable of that, with a very small payload, it essentially worthless in terms of orbital. To get into orbit the chief challenge is velocity. To get that (without other far more interesting technical breakthroughs) you need a HUGE rocket with very large amounts of fuel. So there is really no role at all for this teeny little helicoper/VTOL airplane.

          Brett

Re:Earth to Orbit vehicle? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841956)

I'm not implying they could get into orbit with this vehicle as it obviously will require atmosphere for the rotor blades to be effective, but in a general sense. Specifically getting a launch vehicle as far into the atmosphere as possible before switching to a different means of propulsion like a typical rocket.

Re:Earth to Orbit vehicle? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842018)

But you can't possibly lift a big enough rocket with this little airplane. It barely works for tiny payloads when you drop the booster from an L1011. What this would amount to is far less effective than a rockoon, where a HUGE balloon lifted small rockets to ~100,000 feet. None of them came close to gaining sufficient velocity. Trying to raise the launcher 10-20000 feet ( at essentially zero velocity) is not worth the effort, no matter how big the lifting device is. This little thing is going to have problems even taking off with much more than a single person.

          Brett
             

Re:Earth to Orbit vehicle? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842082)

From TFA: "the Puffin can lift a person with just 60 horsepower."

Again, I'm not saying this specific vehicle is what would be used. I asked if it could be a precursor to future designs. What is to prevent someone from putting higher HP electric motors? The scale on this one is tiny. Imagine putting a little muscle into this.

Re:Earth to Orbit vehicle? (4, Informative)

bertok (226922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842022)

I'm not implying they could get into orbit with this vehicle as it obviously will require atmosphere for the rotor blades to be effective, but in a general sense. Specifically getting a launch vehicle as far into the atmosphere as possible before switching to a different means of propulsion like a typical rocket.

Achieving orbit is about speed ('delta v'), NOT altitude. It takes much more energy to get the horizontal speed to the required level than to reach the required altitude. Getting above the atmosphere helps, but not all that much.

Re:Earth to Orbit vehicle? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842110)

"The orbital velocity of a satellite depends on its altitude above Earth. The nearer Earth, the faster the required orbital velocity."

Is this accurate?

Re:Earth to Orbit vehicle? (1)

jensend (71114) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842268)

Yes. What you need is for the force pulling you towards the earth to be equal to the force necessary to pull the satellite into a circular orbit rather than inertial straight line motion: G*m_earth*m_sat/r^2=m_sat*v_sat^2/r. So v_sat is inversely proportional to sqrt(r). Any faster and you'd be spiralling outwards; any slower and you'll spiral inwards.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841780)

VTOL aircraft have to be overpowered to pull off the takeoff and landing, but with a top speed of 250 km/h (ground speed, presumably) and those little wings I wouldn't count on getting to 9000 metres, never mind higher.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841786)

Not only does it become difficult to generate lift, but to keep the electric motors cooled. You're always going to have losses in the form of heat and that's generally carried away by the air moving past the motor. An overheated motor when that's what's keeping you from plummeting isn't cool... literally.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1)

cortesoft (1150075) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842088)

At those altitudes, wouldn't the fact that the air be EXTREMELY cold? (I think -52c or so at 30k feet?)

Re:"No flight ceiling" (2, Informative)

spidkit (992102) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841856)

The reference to max altitude being un-inhibited by thin air due to the powerplant not being combustion based is misleading. The term "service ceiling" is used to define the altitude at which (generally), aircraft will not climb at a rate faster than 100 feet per minute in a sustained climb attitude. This is a factor of air density (and max available power) - which affects both power output of the "engine" if this were a combustion engine, as well as the airfoil, and the lift (and drag) it produces (in a fixed wing craft). If the powerplant is electric, one still contends with air density which as a factor in the lift formula: L = (1/2) d v2 s CL, where * L = Lift, which must equal the airplane's weight (and pilot) in pounds * d = density of the air. This will change due to altitude. These values can be found in a I.C.A.O. Standard Atmosphere Table. * v = velocity of an aircraft expressed in feet per second * s = the wing area of an aircraft in square feet * CL = Coefficient of lift , which is determined by the type of airfoil and angle of attack. reference: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/WindTunnel/Activities/lift_formula.html [nasa.gov] If the air gets too thin - you're lift value will drop, and if it drops out (pilot plus craft weight) before the battery runs down, the craft will cease to climb because of the drop in air density.

Re:"No flight ceiling" (1)

Suki I (1546431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842076)

This leads to a question: How high up could it go before the air becomes too thin to generate enough lift to continue ascending? Whatever that height is would be the flight ceiling. Still sounds like whop, whop, whopor ware to me.

CG concept only (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841506)

By March, the researchers plan on finishing a one third-size, hover-capable Puffin demonstrator, and in the three months following that they will begin investigating how well it transitions from cruise to hover flight. They are already looking past the Puffin, however.

And that's why we'll never see a full sized vehicle.

The next-generation of this design might incorporate more than just two pairs of prop rotors, so that if one was struck by, say, a bird or gunfire, the aircraft could survive on redundant systems. "We could make it so there's no single point of failure--that's the cool next step," Moore says.

Ya know what a cool next step would be? Actually making the vehicle.

Re:CG concept only (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841546)

And that's why we'll never see a full sized vehicle.

Wrong. In fact, it reeks of the spectacular(yet somehow still operational) failure known as the V-22 Osprey. [wikipedia.org]
Here's an obligatory video [youtube.com] which showcases the V-22's stability ~ .

Note that the video in TFA is a cutesy CGI video and not actual footage of the flight of a prototype. In actuality, the vehicle won't be as efficient as a suicide booth, but it'll will be much more fun.

Re:CG concept only (2, Informative)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841636)

Your V-22 video was an unfortunate example. The V-22/XV-15/BA-609 tilt rotor platform is generally stable and easily controlled, ala this video [youtube.com] .

Re:CG concept only (2, Insightful)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841652)

4 crashes since its inception? That really isn't so bad. You should compare with other military planes. Also at least half of those crashes were due to maintenance, parts failure issues and really have nothing to do with the actual design of the craft. I would say the press did a pretty good job of convincing everyone that the V-22 was a flying deathtrap.....

Re:CG concept only (3, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841678)

4 crashes since its inception? That really isn't so bad. You should compare with other military planes.

Hell, just compare it to the early helicopters. The tilt-rotor concept is a major advancement. The accidents are regrettable, but not at all surprising.

-jcr

Still only 20 minutes (1)

rockNme2349 (1414329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841706)

n principle, the Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers per hour and dash at more than 480 kph.

With current state-of-the-art batteries, it has a range of just 80 kilometers if cruising,

That's a flight time of (80km/(480km/hr)) = 20 minutes. Less than impressive even if they actually were to produce it.

Although that is a problem they seem to have solved by making it with batteries which don't exist yet.

Re:CG concept only (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842172)

Why is there a requirement that NASA build a full scale version? Because you said so? They are building and flying a 1/3 scale version to test the design. It will be used to test the transition between vertical take off, horizontal flight, and vertical landing. If they were to go further with this design it is a reasonable step to take. So how is this not real?

You want a full scale version, how about you fund it yourself. NASA has procedures for working with outside organizations. You could do it out of your vast personal fortune, or raise the venture funding.

The last I heard NASA did research, not making production prototypes. I would say this is in their charter. Why are you bitching?

Re:CG concept only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842188)

the reason you'll *never* see personal transport aircraft is why they've been nothing but a pipe dream anyway...if you can't have trouble free traffic on the ground, would you want the idiot next door flying over your house during rush hour???

thin air? (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841524)

since the engine is electric it has no flight ceiling and can fly up to 9,150 meters high, uninhibited by thin air

Seriously, who who wrote this? Thin air = less air for the props to bite, and less air to provide lift for the wings.

And who calls an electric motor an "engine"? Gaaaah. If this were Wired, I'd be more forgiving on both counts- but this is Scientific American!

Re:thin air? (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841608)

Seriously, who who wrote this? Thin air = less air for the props to bite, and less air to provide lift for the wings.

While you're right about this, of course, the problem is compounded with combustion engines because with altitude the thinner air means less oxygen to burn fuel with. Just when you need more power to turn the prop faster (or at higher pitch)*, you have less power because of relative oxygen starvation. Electrics avoid that problem, but yes ultimately you reach an altitude where you can't get any more lift at the airspeed you can reach with maximum power to the props.

(*And of course that's not straightforward either because it's easier to turn a prop in thinner air -- just not as effective. Flight controls include a mixture setting so that the engine doesn't run over-rich at altitude, and even some single-engine planes have constant-speed props whose pitch is variable.)

I understand all this (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841664)

While you're right about this, of course, the problem is compounded with combustion engines because with altitude the thinner air means less oxygen to burn fuel with

No kidding; I don't deny this. But the article doesn't say that it has a higher ceiling; it says: "It has no flight ceiling."

That is utter bullshit!

Re:I understand all this (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842116)

It only sorta says that... I mean it does but it says what the flight ceiling is in the same line, obviously they meant they don't succumb to oxygen starvation like regular choppers/planes. Which they say later in the paragraph....

I don't think this was a scientific error or reporting error but rather an English error.

Re:thin air? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841628)

I thought NASA had solved our orbital launch problems for ever.

Re:thin air? (4, Interesting)

Thagg (9904) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841724)

Note well that the highest flying prop plane ever, the Aerovironment Helios [wikipedia.org] , flew to 96,000 ft -- far higher than almost any other plane (probably the only one that could sustain that altitude was the SR-71). The Helios was powered completely by solar cells and electric motors.

psst, NASA, just one little thing. (5, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841526)

Those little bars on the display that shows the charge remaining? Don't trust it. It does not work.

Re:psst, NASA, just one little thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841694)

that's why you grab batmon.deb

My question is.. (1)

cyberzephyr (705742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841530)

How long will this stay in the air?

Jet packs last about 90 seconds? Hmmm

Re:My question is.. (4, Informative)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841612)

Well, let's see...

FTFA:

[...] the Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers per hour [...] With current state-of-the-art batteries, it has a range of just 80 kilometers if cruising [...]

So it can stay up about 20 minutes.

It would work for me. I could get to work in about 15 minutes and plug it in. At the end of the day, it's all charged up and I take it home.

So, yes. I want one.

Re:My question is.. (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842124)

Work.... :/ I think if I had a personal flying machine like this I think it'd be my personal duty to watch over the city and fight crime from the skies.

Re:My question is.. (2, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842496)

"Puffin Man" doesn't have quite the same ring to it though, compared to the names of other super hero's...

Re:My question is.. (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842454)

If I were flying this, I could jump 3m up.

Re:My question is.. (1)

nicc777 (614519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842490)

Will work for me too! Where do we place orders?

Re:My question is.. (1)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841670)

Seeing as how they are now making R/C planes with electric motors (the jet models come to mind) I think this could have some sort of reasonable range. Even a couple of hundred miles would be plenty. Remember that airplanes can be more efficient than cars because there is actually much less resistance.

Re:My question is.. (1)

rockNme2349 (1414329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842250)

Becoming airborne is not a requisite of a body with a lower coefficient of drag.

Design a car with a body of an airplane and you will get great fuel efficiency, the only problem is convincing people to drive it.

Go the "Green Spin" (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841576)

Moore and his colleagues ... named their craft the Puffin because "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," he explains. "But it's also apparently called the most environmentally friendly bird, because it hides its poop, and we're environmentally friendly because we have essentially no emissions.

Yeah, environmentally friendly except for that nasty lithium stuff in the lithium phosphate batteries.

I can't help but wonder what the glide slope on this thing is like - with those small wings, how quickly will it hit the ground if it runs out of power.

Re:Go the "Green Spin" (3, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841718)

how quickly will it hit the ground if it runs out of power.

You should be able to auto-rotate like you can with a helicopter. Also, there's always the parachute option.

Re:Go the "Green Spin" (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842484)

Oh great, so not only would you break both of your legs but you would have a wicked case of motion sickness to boot.

*spinspinspin* *thud* *crack* *BLEEEEEEEEEEGH* *whimper*

Re:Go the "Green Spin" (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841898)

Could always install one of those light aircraft parachutes they've got now a days. Trick would be finding a place to set it down in an urban setting.

Re:Go the "Green Spin" (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842062)

> ...that nasty lithium stuff...

There is nothing particularly nasty about lithium.

Re:Go the "Green Spin" (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842152)

Lithium batteries are recyclable.... Also I imagine it'll force you to land before it runs out, unless you mean the batteries falling out of the vehicle or something.... Then yeah that'd be a problem.

when i can buy one at walmart (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841578)

that's the acid test. until then, i refuse to believe it exists.

Re:when i can buy one at walmart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842208)

that's the acid test. until then, i refuse to believe it exists.

If WalMart starts selling them, that's it. I will never. fly. again. Have you seen the people who shop at Walmart? [peopleofwalmart.com]

And don't get me started on the people who own and run it.

Cool toy, but we can't have it. (2, Insightful)

zeugma-amp (139862) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841602)

The U.S. government will never allow widespread use of such a craft. The FAA is trying to essentially eliminate community airfields with their regulations and "anti-terrorist" programs. While I'd love to be able to fly to work, it's just not.going.to.happen.

Meh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841614)

The Mythbusters already built one. Nothing to see here, move along.

Been there, done that (2, Insightful)

arcsimm (1084173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841620)

Somewhere in Switzerland, Yves Rossy is wondering what took NASA so long.

Is Elmer Gantry Available? (2, Insightful)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841630)

I will believe it when I see it. Batteries that good are a dream. And as far as the nearly 30,000 foot ceiling of this device cold and thin air might be a serious issue. Pilots generally like to breath and being turned into a frozen, air starved corpse is not a goal for most of us. Or are we supposed to think this thing with have a closed cabin with oxygen and heat available? Jesus, we can't even get good batteries for electric bicycles yet.

Re: Is Elmer Gantry Available? (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841698)

being turned into a frozen, air starved corpse is not a goal for most of us.

Exceptions for lawyers, politicians, and SCO employees.
   

Re: Is Elmer Gantry Available? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841932)

Three words: Heated pressure suits.

Re: Is Elmer Gantry Available? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841982)

Pilots? Pffffft. Think of the drones!

Re: Is Elmer Gantry Available? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842162)

Don't fly it that high? ... I know everyone on /. thinks they are ironman or something but seriously it probably isn't a good idea.

And part of the project is named Icarus? (5, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841660)

I don't understand why so many flight related programs are named Icarus. Let's remember what happened in the myth of Icarus: He flew too close to the sun and so he died. I can't tell if such program names are deliberately humorous (hah! Let's see if we can get pilots to fly in something named Icarus! Yeah, I already did that. Let's try to see if we can get them to test out a project named after a flightless bird. Maybe something like a kakapo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakapo [wikipedia.org] that sometimes gets hurt from thinking it can fly when it can't), or if they just don't know any other myths related to flight, or if this is a deliberate comment about how many classical claims about "hubris" simply hold humans back from genuine progress. But would it hurt if occasionally a program was named after Horus or after Odin's raven?

Re:And part of the project is named Icarus? (2, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841732)

I don't understand why so many flight related programs are named Icarus.

It's because most people don't know who you're talking about if you say Daedalus [wikipedia.org] .

-jcr

Not a good sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841676)

The dude in the simulation has no nuts. Flight accident? Count me out.
 

Uncle (1)

The Yuckinator (898499) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841704)

Seriously, it would be a hell of a lot of fun, and probably a challenge to learn to fly as competently as a good driver drives a car.

But the day they open a dealership in Toronto is the day I stop driving. Not that pedestrians are all that safe in this city these days, but I'm already concerned enough with a significant portion of the other people on the road. No way I'm going to share airspace with them too!

Computer-Controlled (Re:Uncle) (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841784)

and probably a challenge to learn to fly as competently as a good driver drives a car...I'm already concerned enough with a significant portion of the other people on the road. No way I'm going to share airspace with them too!

I suspect it wouldn't be sufficiently safe unless it was computer-controlled. It's not that I fully trust computers, just more than I trust everyday humans controlling flying machines.

Unlike most cars, proper proximity broadcasts and other requirements would allow the computer to have sufficient information to avoid collisions with other sky vehicles and high structures.

If there are mechanical problems, the computer could quickly check a stored map for the safest landing zones, such as empty fields or farms, avoiding populated areas. The pilot would be given full control only if the computer is unable to gain sufficient control over an emergency landing. (Extra control would be given to those with special or additional flight licenses.)
     

Re:Uncle (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841920)

Why have a pilot? I doubt the thing will stay airborne without a computer anyway. I can't believe that a pilot would be as capable as an autopilot computer in this instance.

Safe design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841716)

Great! it's your head first hurt once you hit the ground in case of accident. I suppose this is to save you some pain in case you survive otherwise.

Innumeracy? (2, Interesting)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841760)

From TFA:

electric aircraft are much quieter than regular planes—at some 150 meters, it is as loud as 50 decibels, or roughly the volume of a conversation, making it roughly 10 times quieter than current low-noise helicopters.

I admit that I never have gotten a handle on math beyond algebra but am I wrong by being bothered by statements like 10 times quieter? Wouldn't be better to say "makes only one-tenth the noise?" Or am I being pedantic?

Re:Innumeracy? (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842432)

just imagine "X times quieter" means x^(-1) the volume

Re:Innumeracy? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842472)

I admit that I never have gotten a handle on math beyond algebra but am I wrong by being bothered by statements like 10 times quieter? Wouldn't be better to say "makes only one-tenth the noise?" Or am I being pedantic?

No, not as far as I am concerned. You are not being overly pedantic, even by local standards. It's a very awkward choice of words.

Useless precision in ceiling (1)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841766)

9150m are 30 019.685ft [google.com] - so I presume the original source said
"up to about 30k feet", which obviously is an approximate number.

Although I salute the conversion to sensible units, the precision implied
is absolutely arbitrary.

"Up to about 9000m" is the number to give.

Vegeta... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841900)

...what does the scouter say about his altitude?!

Re:Useless precision in ceiling (1)

vikstar (615372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842348)

At 9150m, a plane such as this which is 180kg + say 80kg human (260kg) holds about 23.34 Mega Joules [wolframalpha.com] of gravitational potential energy. Can 45kg batteries hold this much energy to push it up that high? (Not even considering the power required)

Battery powered aircraft:Completely unrealistic (3, Interesting)

viking80 (697716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841824)

Li-ion-anything has an energy density equaling 1% of gasoline. Lithium phosphate batteries are worse than others in energy density, but safer.

So for the same fuel weight, instead of a 2 hour flight reserve, you would have 72 seconds.

Until there is a radically different battery, this is unrealistic.

Re:Battery powered aircraft:Completely unrealistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30841942)

While I'm sure this concept is unrealistic for a number of reasons, only some of which I fully understand, I'm also pretty sure it's not that unrealistic. Consider, for example, that perhaps the engine required to turn gasoline into kinetic energy might weigh many times more than the engine required to turn electricity into kinetic energy. Especially if we start talking about the efficiency of that conversion.

Re:Battery powered aircraft:Completely unrealistic (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842232)

not really, you have to remmeber he is quoting gas, not AV gas which contains many times more energy again. unless your engine weighs 100 tonnes AV gas beats the piss out of batteries for energy storage.

Re:Battery powered aircraft:Completely unrealistic (1)

j_cavera (758777) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842228)

Not unrealistic! There are a number of battery powered aircraft (that even hold people!) being manufactured today. Still kinda experimental, but getting much better. For starters, check out:

http://www.yuneec.com/
http://www.electraflyer.com/
http://www.pipistrel.si/planes/35

Yes, the energy density of the best batteries are about 5% that of gasoline (not 1%) but a gasoline engine is only about 20% efficient at converting chemical energy to mechanical. An electric motor is more like 90%. It's no where near equal, but definitely usable.

Just one thing... (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841838)

Remember what these guys can do with a mere DODGE NEON? Add a third dimension and the ability to be unaware of restricted airspace, falling into open mines, lakes, and rivers...you'll quickly learn why people never developed flying cars! :>

Re:Just one thing... (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842066)

I dunno, it could be a great source of material for the Darwin Awards.

Poor design of tail (1)

ctmurray (1475885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841844)

I think it is a poor design to have the plane "stand" on its tail. The picture shows the tail is "split" so it can help hold the plane in the upright position. Seems like this is ripe for damage to the tail and that can't be a good thing.

If it had a frikkin' laser... (1)

UttBuggly (871776) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841850)

...I'd buy THAT for a dollar!

Actually, if this thing ever becomes an actual product, I'll buy one.

I can always get the laser in the aftermarket.

A Tail Sitter? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841864)

Tail sitters like the Convair Pogo [fiddlersgreen.net] were a beast to land.

The transition from horizontal to vertical flight has always come with substantial penalties - weight, complexity, power, control and cost.

There's some truth still to old adage that what "looks right, flies right." To my eyes this thing looks all wrong.

Re:A Tail Sitter? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841928)

I don't think this will be flown stick and rudder. More like point to a map location on your iPhone and press the "Go There" button.

Re:A Tail Sitter? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841988)

Tail sitters like the Convair Pogo were a beast to land.

That's because the pilot was on his back, looking straight up when the Pogo was landing on its tail. The Puffin would have the pilot in a standing position during takeoff and landing.

-jcr

Standing position (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842042)

Much like the Heinkel Lerche II.

It never flew either.

Hard ceiling (1)

viking80 (697716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841954)

Have installed aircooled equipment in aircrafts. Already at 5000m, air density is 50% of sealevel. Your cooling fan will have to suck in 200% of the air. At the same time, the rotors have to work harder to hold you up in the thin air. That requires more cooling as well. Maybe 300% at 5000m. At 10000m, maybe 1,000% increase.

You will quickly reach a hard ceiling. And with 60 seconds of battery life it is pretty theoretical anyway.

Japan got it first (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30841980)

This prototype [crunchgear.com] really show how high we can get with personal flight vehicles.

Electric Planes (1)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842004)

Very high quality realistic designs are already flying, one of my favorite is the Yuneec e430 [yuneec.com]

Puffin looks like a... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30842020)

flying coffin that contains a supersized penguin that couldn't fit inside completely. Creepy.

nice penguin you have there (1)

vacarul (1624873) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842254)

oh look, a flying penguin! where's my riffle?!

Do I understand this correctly? (1)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842424)

It's late and I'm tired, but what they're saying is, if you be Puffin, you be flying high?
I'm down with that.

Darwin Lives! (1)

matt_hs (1252668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842438)

With two prop electric engines, lithium phosphate batteries and a top speed of almost 300 mph

Ahhh, newer, faster, and better ways to auger one's self into the ground.

I see... (4, Funny)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30842502)

I see dead people.
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