A resurrected hover vehicle won’t fly through dense forests as effortlessly as the “Star Wars” speeder bikes from “Return of the Jedi,” but its intuitive controls could someday allow anyone to fly it without pilot training.
The aerial vehicle resembles a science fiction flying bike with two ducted rotors instead of wheels, but originates from a design abandoned in the 1960s because of stability and rollover problems. Aerofex, a California-based firm, fixed the stability issue by creating a mechanical system — controlled by two control bars at knee-level — that allows the vehicle to respond to a human pilot’s leaning movements and natural sense of balance.
Such intuitive controls could allow physicians to fly future versions of the vehicle to visit rural patients in places without roads, or enable border patrol officers to go about their duties without pilot training. All of it happens mechanically without the need for electronics, let alone complicated artificial intelligence or flight software.
But Aerofex does not plan to immediately develop and sell a manned version. Instead, the aerospace firm sees the aerial vehicle as a test platform for new unmanned drones — heavy-lift robotic workhorses that could use the same hover technology to work in agricultural fields, or swiftly deliver supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain. Aerofex has currently limited human flight testing to a height of 15 feet and speeds of about 30 mph, but more out of caution rather than because of any technological limits. Older versions of the hover vehicles could fly about as fast as helicopters, Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex, said.
Flight testing in California’s Mojave Desert led to the presentation of a technical paper regarding Aerofex’s achievements at the Future Vertical Lift Conference in January 2012. The company plans to fly a second version of its vehicle in October, and also prepare an unmanned drone version for flight testing by the end of 2013.
Should Aerofex concentrate on developing a manned version of the hover bike, or just go on developing it for military use? Tell us if you like this invention!
Image: Adelaide Now