The FanWing is arguably the first entirely new aircraft design developed within the past century. Instead of jet engines or rotors, it uses huge rotating fans embedded in its wings for both lift and propulsion. Scale models have been flying for years, and we've just learned that a manned ultralight prototype should be airborne in early 2013.
Inside of the wings of a FanWing aircraft are long cylindrical turbines (picture the rotating blades on one of those old push-lawnmowers). The turbines are spun by engines such that they force air over the top of the wing, generating lift and forward thrust simultaneously. Since the lift is engine-powered (like in a helictoper), a FanWing can take off nearly vertically, but it's as efficient as a traditional fixed-wing airplane in level flight. The design is also quiet, cheap to build, easy to fly, impossible to stall, and in the event of an emergency, it can autorotate to a safe landing.
This all sounds fabulous, but we're still waiting on FanWing to build a version of their aircraft that we can actually fly. The company has released a development timeline for a human-sized version that includes a January 2013 "first hop," followed by flight tests through June and a first public demo at the Oshkosh EAA AirVenture event in July of 2013. Until then, however, you'll just have to content yourself with some slick two-seater FanWing renders in the gallery below.