Science Fiction Becomes Science FACT!

The future of transportation has been imagined in many ways by science fiction writers, movie makers and even cartoons. MAC has discovered one particular flight of fantasy that has been transformed into an actual flying machine.

Moving around town might become a lot more interesting in 2017 after Aerofex, a Los Angeles-based engineering company, announced they will start shipping their version of a fully functioning hoverbike then. The Aerofex machine will be capable of transporting two adults or up to 140 kilos at 72kph, at about 6 metres above the ground.

This version of a hoverbike is significantly different from the British version being developed by Malloy Aeronautical in that it is being designed more as a low-flying ATV and not as a simplified and small-scale helicopter replacement. The device is called the Aero-X and it will take up about as much room as a small-sized hatchback. The publicity videos show a slightly awkward looking prototype with a solo rider sitting astride the middle of the machine, although other publicity shots show a much sleeker device with a recumbent seat.

An Aerofex spokesperson said the hoverbike is designed to bridge the gap between light aircraft and all-terrain vehicles, making it an affordable alternative to planes and helicopters for surveying, search and rescue, border patrol and disaster relief. The company added that the hoverbike is also intuitive and easy to drive.

Of course none of these people fly for a living and thus the vehicle will have to be simple enough for a non-pilot to fly. Aerofex believes that this will not be problematic as the aircraft responds to the pilot’s movements; in fact, the website says:

“You can learn to operate it safely in just a weekend of training.”

“It responds to your movements just as a motorcycle would.”

Like other hovercrafts already on the market, the Aero-X uses fans to force a cushion of air under it and lift it up. Other existing hovercrafts barely skim above flat surfaces such as water; the Aero-X flies much higher because unlike other hovercrafts, it relies on the surface below for lift only, not stability.

The hoverbike is not a new idea; there have been many before them but materials technology has never been capable enough to produce a strong enough, light enough machine. To cut down on weight, the Aero-X uses a special rotary engine, which Aerofex founder, Mark DeRoche says offers additional safety benefits. “They have some features that we need,” he said. “For example, a piston engine could seize – we can’t allow that.”

So confident that they will hit their planned launch date, the company is already accepting deposits of US$5000 with an estimated sale price of US$85,000, which would make it a bit of a rich man’s toy; but one that I would like to have for sure, if only I was a rich man…if only…

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