Feb 14

 

NASA joins the queue of aeronautics companies developing personal VTOL aircraft, and it’s a long queue. The “Puffin” as you will see from the video is a helicopter/fixed wing hybrid which transitions from its take off/landing mode to a fixed wing aircraft mode for up to 50 miles of flight at speeds reaching 150 mph… I can see a slight shortcoming here, just 50 miles? Phht come on NASA that’s pathetic oh and stop making claims that it’s zero emission, just because it’s electric, someone is making the electricity somewhere and it sure as hell isn’t zero emission. Sorry to say that this is destined to do one thing only FAIL. The beardy sandal brigade had me going for a moment there though. 

 

The one I always fancied as a front runner in this race was the Moller SkyCar, so where are they now? Well this ducted fan VTOL aircraft is still not quite a reality. It underwent tethered flight trials a long time ago now but there doesn’t seem to have been much progress beyond that, disappointing isn’t it. The design is brilliant and sexy in red as ever.  

The expected range is 750 miles at a cruising speed of 305 mph and achieving greater than 20 mpg. If Moller can ever get this in the shops it’s got to be a hit although that wouldn’t be hard going up against the puffin. Getting to the point of being able to manufacture and sell the SkyCar may come down to getting a defence contract as the much needed stepping stone. I wish Moller good luck and would like a free flight when it’s ready please :) 

 

This is a Skywalker VTOL and as you can see it is a single ducted fan design much like a helicopter with enclosed blades and it is by far the ugliest thing I have seen in years. There’s just something wrong with it that you can’t quite put your finger on, is it missing something behind it like the cockpit of the Space 1999 Eagle without the rest of the ship? I’m sure somebody loves this design but personally it’s a fail in so many respects, not just the looks, its range is only 300 miles and top speed a breathtakingly slow 138 mph which means it will probably cruise at closer 100 mph. 

  

This isn’t a VTOL at all but it looks so good I had to include The Switchblade from Samson Motorworks. It’s a kit motorbike that converts to a fixed wing aircraft. The genius here is the motorbike part, you see the difficult bit of making a car fly or a plane drive is that the requirements for either are incompatible. To meet the safety requirements for a car you have to add too much weight and a plane is simply not safe in a head on collision with a car. By giving it three wheels and calling it a motorbike the requirements are much less stringent for road safety for instance it doesn’t need bumpers so can be more aerodynamic. Fingers crossed we will see this one taking to the skies soon.

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