Science: Flying Carpet

In a field outside Palo Alto, Calif, last week, a small metal doughnut, six feet across and two feet thick, bustled noisily into the air, then hovered seven feet off the ground. The pilot rode on a platform above the disk, protected by a pipe enclosure. The contraption had no wings, no visible helicopter blades. On display for the first time was the Flying Carpet, built by Hiller Helicopters for the Office of Naval Research.

The futuristic-looking machine uses a simple new method of propulsion: the ducted air fan. Two enclosed counterrotating propellers under...

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