With the charge of its current lithium phosphate state-of-the-art batteries, it has a range of just 80 kilometers if cruising—and, in principle, the Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers per hour and dash at more than 480 kph. Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, and his colleagues officially unveiled the Puffin design yesterday at an American Helicopter Society meeting in San Francisco.
“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,” Moore 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. Also, puffins tend to live in solitude, only ever coming together on land to mate, and ours is a one-person vehicle.”