Ride of the future? Start-up shows off new 'hoverbike'

The test video of a Star-Wars inspired personal aircraft may mean that the technology is on its way to becoming a reality.

Last summer, an Australian inventor by the name of Chris Malloy offered the public a glimpse of the neat hoverbike he had built in his garage. Though it generated a lot of commotion on the internet, the DIY enthusiast admitted that his company still had a ways to go before an actual production model would be available.

Now another company is teasing us yet again with a test video of their version of the Star-Wars inspired personal aircraft. The unnamed prototype, developed by California-based aviation firm Aeroflex, was based on a design originally drawn up in the 1960's that was technically inoperable because of stability concerns. The engineers behind the new hoverbike have figured a way around this problem by incorporating an innovative steering system that can be controlled based on the rider's lean and body positioning.

"It essentially captures the translations between the two in three axis (pitch, roll and yaw), and activates the aerodynamic controls required to counter the movement — which lines the vehicle back up with the pilot," De Roche told InnovationNewsDaily. "Since [the pilot's] balancing movements are instinctive and constant, it plays out quite effortlessly to him."

Besides being a sci-fi geek's wet dream, just the concept alone has numerous applications, such as allowing police to chase down criminals attempting to escape by running into the forest, rescuing victims or herding cattle. For now, however, the company is focused on developing the technology solely for possible integration with existing aircraft such as unmanned drones.

The logic makes a lot of sense when you really think about it. Most UAVs are either massive robotic aircraft or miniature hoverers like quadrocopters. Something in the middle would open up wider range of uses and military missions like delivering supplies and emergency aid.

Although the hoverbike is capable of flying as fast a helicopter, safety concerns has limited testing speeds to about 30 mph and within a height of 15 feet. A second prototype will undergo testing in October, with an unmanned drone version scheduled for development before the end of 2013.


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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com