NASA unveils design for personal aircraft

It’s 2010. Admit it, we all thought we’d be cruising around in flying cars and have personal jetpacks by now. Instead, we’re still stuck on the ground, tethered to the Earth by gravity, while dreaming about zipping through the clouds like George Jetson.

Earlier this week NASA has released a design for a small, one-man, personal aircraft that could be the answer to our prayers however. The vehicle, known as the Puffin, stands just 12-feet in height and has a wingspan of roughly 14-feet. It weight just 300 pounds, sans pilot of course, and has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities. Designer Mark D. Moore says that the Puffin is capable of sustained speeds of 150 mph, with bursts up to 300 mph when necessary. It could also potentially reach heights of 30,000 feet and is powered by a quiet, energy efficient, electrical engine.

What’s the catch? That electrical engine doesn’t really hold much of a charge right now, so the Puffin’s effective range is roughly 50 miles. That means it might be okay for a morning commute, but don’t plan on flying off to Europe for the weekend. At least not until battery technology improves.

Check out the concept video below for more on the Puffin.

Icon A5 personal aircraft puts us one step closer to the Jetsons

Ever dream of strolling out to the garage, sliding inside your own personal aircraft, rolling down the driveway, and flying off to some exotic place? If so, then you’re in luck, as Icon Aircraft is working towards making this dream a reality with their Icon A5 airplane.

The two passenger A5 is just 22 feet in length and comes with wings that fold up for easier storage. It can carry a load of approximately 530 pounds, including passengers and luggage, and it runs on both automobile and aviation fuel, meaning you can fuel up at the 7-11 on the corner if you’d like. The aircraft can fly as high as 15,000 feet and has a top speed of 138 miles per hour, and, best of all, with the optional retractable landing gear, it becomes amphibious, allowing it to take off and land on water.

The A5 is rated as a “light sports aircraft” by the FAA, which places some special restrictions on its performance but also grants it some liberties as well. For instance, to get licensed to fly this plane you’ll need just 20 hours of training, and you literally can take it down to the lake and use it as your runway. But, you’ll need a special, optional instrument panel to fly at night and for safety reasons, light aircraft are now allowed to stray too close to an airport with a manned control tower.

Icon hopes to ramp up production in 2011 and begin shipping the first models, but you can reserve your A5 today on the company’s website. A $5000 deposit puts you on the waiting list for your own personal aircraft which will have a price tag of just $139,000.