Hoverbike II - Aerofex Aerial ATV
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As if a Hoverbike Part I weren't mind-blowing enough, Manhattan Beach aerospace engineering firm Aerofex is tossing its own aerial ATV prototype into the pool of flying bikes most recently filled by Australian fabricator Chris Malloy. (Malloy, by the way, is still raising funds to complete testing and refinement of his Hoverbike. Once he reaches $1.1 million AUD, he will give the aircraft away to the backer he deems most deserving.) Aerofex's speeder bike-esque incarnation of two ducted rotors and a mechanical system that responds to the lean and pitch of its pilot's body, seems to be just one more in a long line of clues, including the Galactic Republic Passport, that George Lucas' next Star Wars installation is going to be a reality show.
The intuitive mechanics of Aerofex's Hoverbike serves as the foundation of its potential brilliance for practical use. Similar to Malloy's vision, Aerofex imagines doctors, soldiers, law enforcement officers, and border patrol agents putting the Hoverbike's simple operation and handling to use during everything from search and rescue missions to daily duties. Traditional pilot training will not be necessary, as the bike shrugs off complex electronics, such as artificial intelligence and flight software.
Unfortunately, Aerofex's more immediate goal is to develop an unmanned Hoverbike--one that drones can fly to deliver supplies or, again like Malloy's aircraft, use to work in agriculture. Figures. Out of caution, Aerofex has also limited current Hoverbike testing to heights of 15 feet and speeds of about 30 mph.
So how does the Hoverbike stack up to other fancies of flight? As mentioned earlier, it is much easier to learn to use than most aircraft, and responds directly to the pilot's weight and body movements. And while its closest relative, the helicopter, is far more efficient due to its longer rotor blades, the Hoverbike triumphs in maneuverability. It has successfully flown between trees, close to walls, and under bridges. It is also safer to take off and land in relatively close proximity to standers by.
May 2014 Update: Aerofex has advanced its Hoverbike R&D to a realistic design set for production and public sale. Rebranded the Aero-X, the company is now accepting applications and $5,000 placeholder deposits for the personal flying machine here. Aerofex anticipates a 2017 Aero-X release.