Get Ready for the Hoverbike: 2017, $80,000

Aerofex says the vehicle could have a variety of uses, including agricultural work and border patrols (Aerofex)

Aerofex says the vehicle could have a variety of uses, including agricultural work and border patrols. The vehicles are due to go on sale in 2017 – and will cost $80,000 each. (Aerofex)

For BBC , Jack Stewart writes: Getting from A to B is very rarely boring in the world of science fiction – sadly real life is often a let-down in comparison. We do not have many floating, hovering, flying vehicles, despite a great deal of engineering effort from entrepreneurs to develop jetpacksflying cars, and radical hovercraft.

But if the hoverbike currently being developed by Los Angeles-based Aerofex, gets off the ground, this could change. It is uncannily reminiscent of a Speeder Bike from the original Star Wars trilogy.

The device is named the Aero-X and it takes up about as much room as a small car. Eventually there will be space for just two passengers though, and early prototypes show only one brave test-rider, who perches on top of two horizontal spinning blades encased in circular housings.

black-hover

The company calls it a crossover vehicle. It is technically a hovercraft, but it apparently feels like riding a motorbike. It is designed for low-altitude flying, and can zoom over ground that even an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) would struggle with. Aerofex says it will be capable of 72km/h (45mph).

But at a cost of $85,000, who is a crossover hoverbike aimed at, beyond the odd rich eccentric with a head for heights? Although it’s a niche product, the company’s CTO and founder Mark DeRoche told me it could be a lucrative niche. “There’s really nothing between a ground vehicle and an aircraft,” he says, apart from much more expensive helicopters and small planes. Aerofex thinks its vehicle could be useful for farmers, both for agriculture (crops) and herding animals. It could also be used by emergency services, for disaster relief or search and rescue, as well as for border patrols.

None of these people fly aircraft for a living, so the vehicle will have to be easy enough for a non-pilot to fly. The company says that should be possible, and that the rider sits in a position where the vehicle responds to his movements similar to the way a motorcycle would. Aerofex says it has found that, for this type of vehicle, it makes sense to fly up to around 20ft (6m) above the ground.

The concept behind the Aero-X isn’t new, with similar designs dating back to the 1950s. Piasecki Helicopter Co (now Piasecki Aircraft) built three variants of “flying Jeep” for the US army. Cutbacks in military spending meant the vehicles were never developed further, but they serve as a proof-of-concept for tandem-duct aircraft like the hoverbike, says DeRoche…(read moreBBC

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