It’s happening. Our dream of cruising around on speeder bikes is one step closer to becoming a reality. British engineering company Malloy Aeronautics has struck a deal with the US Department of Defense to develop and build the first truly functional, full-sized “hoverbike” in the United States. Endor, here we come.
While Malloy’s hoverbike has actually been around for a while (it burst onto the scene last year as a Kickstarter project), the company has made some design changes since the original hit the streets. In its current version, the craft is essentially a giant, rideable quadcopter with overlapping rotor blades, which helps reduce both weight and width for increased maneuverability.
“There are a lot of advantages of the Hoverbike over a regular helicopter,” says team member Grant Stapleton. “Primarily there’s safety… with adducted [or streamlined] rotors you immediately not only protect people and property if you were to bump into them, but if you ever were to bump something it’s [not] going to bring [this] aircraft out of the air.” Then there’s cost: the fuel-less hover bikes are much cheaper to run and build than traditional aircrafts.
A safer crew and heavier pockets seems reason enough for the DoD to jump on the hoverbike bandwagon, but Malloy’s machine has one more trick up its sleeves: autonomy. “It can operate in both a manned and unmanned asset,” explains Stapleton. Using advanced stability features, the bike can fly by itself on a pre-determined path, return to “home,” loiter, and follow – all features that lend well to rescue, emergency first-responder, and cargo replenishment missions. Not to mention the bike can be folded up and easily moved across borders.
“It’s absolutely ideal,” says Stapleton. “It can do so much inexpensively and effectively as a multi-purpose product.”
Development for the DoD will take place on US soil, under a partnership with engineering firm SURVICE, who specialize in defense research and product design. “We’ve been working with Malloy to develop the full-scale version,” says applied technology manager Mark Butkiewicz. “The next step is to do additional testing and to design and construct prototypes that meet military requirements.” Despite the merger, Malloy will remain independent in the UK, where they plan to tap into leisure markets. (Permission to squee, granted.)
Now, we know concepts for hoverbikes and helicopter-alternatives have popped up since the late ’50s without much success, but the advancement of quadcopter technology certainly bodes well for the Malloy bike. There are still questions to be answered, like, How will the craft be piloted? What kind of battery is running the damn thing? And exactly how much will they cost? But as the teams have yet to release the complete tech-specs, we’ll just have to wait impatiently.
IMAGES: Malloy Aeronautics