The future is coming faster than we thought. Just months after a Back to the Future-influenced hoverboard hit Kickstarter (with an eye-watering pricetag of $10,000), the US defence department has announced plans to develop a Star Wars-style hoverbike.
The bike will be produced by a joint team of British and American engineers working who will design and build the vehicle in the US. It has been developed by British firm Malloy Aeronautics, which says that its prototype is intended to do many of the jobs that a helicopter is used for, but without the problems inherent with helicopter design.
Malloy has joined forces with US firm Survice, 30-year veterans of defence research and development, to develop the vehicle in the US state of Maryland.
A spokesman for Malloy told Reuters that “there are a lot of advantages of the Hoverbike over a regular helicopter. Primarily there’s safety” as the rotors in the hoverbike will be shielded, ensuring they don’t shred anything they touch. “The other thing is cost. This is much less expensive to buy … and much less expensive to run.”
The basic design of the hoverbike is similar to that shown by US manufacturer Aerofex in 2012: powerful fans at either end of the vehicle keep it airborne, while a passenger astride the machine is in control. But a video from Aerofex showed the prototype was bulky and very difficult to control, both problems Malloy will need to have fixed before its own design can be used in the field.
In September, Malloy raised £65,000 in a Kickstarter to build its own prototypes, at one-third scale to the full machine. Those devices had four fans for added stability, and were sold independently for use as a recreational drone.