If you think a drone looks like something out of a science fiction movie, then take a look at the hoverbike. First introduced by Malloy Aeronautics as part of a Kickstarter campaign (3), this flying vehicle is a cross between an unmanned aerial vehicle and a mosquito you can ride.
According to its website, Hoverbike manufacturer says the vehicle is the world’s first flying motorcycle (4).
The vehicle does sort of resemble a motorcycle without wheels. However, the uplift technology is four quadcopters designed to push airflow downward in order to lift the vehicle upward, much like a helicopter’s propeller.
The vehicle can maneuver manned or unmanned. When unmanned, it can be used as a delivery device as evidenced by the video used for the company’s Kickstarter campaign (5).
What Will the U.S. Military Do With a Hoverbike?
When the U.S. military heard of a UK company designing a commercial vehicle that can hover, be ridden, and looks like a couple of Ferris wheels connected by a battery pack, military leaders had an aha! moment. What a great tactical reconnaissance vehicle that would make, they said.
The U.S. is getting its hoverbikes from U.S.-based SURVICE Engineering, located in Maryland (6).
SURVICE Engineering and Malloy Aeronautics will partner to produce a commercial version of the hoverbike first. It will be able to carry 250 pounds and cost around $80,000.
The military variant will be able to carry 400 to 800 pounds and carry one or two passengers. SURVICE Engineering hasn’t listed the hoverbike on the projects page of its website yet, but the website is clear that the company works on both commercial and Department of Defense (DoD) projects (7).
Despite no mention of hoverbikes or “tactical reconnaissance vehicles” on the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s website, it is clear the DoD wants to use the flying motorcycles for that purpose (8). Malloy Aeronautics has set up an office next to the Aberdeen Proving Ground to continue its work on the hoverbike.
The original design of the hoverbike featured two rotors, one to the front and one to the back of the driver’s seat.
The current version, however, features four rotors — two to the front and two to the back of the driver’s seat.
Between the rotors is a motorcycle engine that runs on regular unleaded gasoline. The ignition is electronic and the drive shafts are made of custom carbon fiber. The airframe is made of carbon fiber and reinforced with Kevlar on a foam core (9).
The idea was to build a flying vehicle that can maneuver at low altitudes, at moderate speeds and be sturdy enough to carry enough weight to make it practical and useful. Production is expected to end in three to five years.
References & Image Credits:
(1) Media Ate Up Amazon Prime Air Drone Publicity Hoax
(2) The Independent
(6) Defense Tech
(7) SURVICE Engineering
(9) Hover-bike.com Specifications