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Thursday, January 21, 2010

NASA Wednesday unveiled its design for a one-person aircraft that would take off vertically, hover, and then cruise horizontally, U.S. officials said.

The nearly silent 12-foot-tall Puffin would stand on end like a space ship, lift off vertically and then cruise horizontally with the pilot lying prone as if in a glider, NASA said in a release.

The twin-engine Puffin was designed by Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The Puffin was designed with the help of engineers at the Massachusetts and Georgia institutes of technology and the National Institute of Aerospace.

Moore and his team were to discuss the Puffin's design Wednesday in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Helicopter Society.

The pilot would stand in the aircraft and lie flat in a fashion similar to a hang glider pilot when the craft is in horizontal flight. Each rotor of the aircraft is 2.3 meters wide and the craft measures 3.7 meters long and has a 4.1-meter wingspan. The aircraft is constructed of carbon-fiber composites and weighs only 400 lbs including the rechargeable battery pack.

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