What's cooler than a hover-capable, electric-powered, super-quiet personal VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft? If you answered "absolutely nothing," do read on, because NASA is preparing to oblige you. The space agency's Puffin aircraft design will be officially unveiled tomorrow, showing just how far personal, electrically propelled flight could change the ways we live and get around.
The Puffin is something of a personal V-22 Osprey, complete with vertical-takeoff and landing capability (but minus the squad of Marines). 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.