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February 3, 2010

NASA's one-person plane to revolutionize air travel

     Washington: If NASA has its way, then very soon, people would have their own one-person aircraft that they can use for personal air travel. According to a report in Discovery News, NASA has developed a prototype one-person aircraft known as 'Puffin'. No one has ridden inside a Puffin as yet because it's a subscale model without a body or tails right now. But, the electric-powered vehicle already has aced one of its most difficult goals: quiet flight. "It's a 10 times reduction in noise from the quietest helicopters today," said Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. That's important if personal air vehicles are ever going to bridge the gap between commercial air transport and the family car. "It's inevitable that someday more and more people will take to the air in on-demand vehicles," Moore told Discovery News. "It will happen. There's just no other way to achieve fast, on-demand, high-speed travel," he said. The idea is to develop an air-based transport system that doesn't require people to drive long distances to airports to board planes for relatively short flights. "We're not trying to replace the car or the airplane," Moore said. "There is a huge gaping hole in our transportation system. We're trying to come up with another alternative," he added. The Puffin, named because it resembles the bird, has not yet flown publicly, but Moore said its longest flight lasted five minutes. "The intent is not to be a viable product. NASA doesn't develop products; we develop new technologies that can provide industry with the ability to generate new products," Moore said. NASA has spent about 500,000 dollars on the Puffin, which was developed in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the National Institute of Aerospace and M-DOT Aerospace.
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