By Ripun Chhabra:
Fond of the Star Wars — ‘Return of the Jedi’? Ever thought of seeing a hover bike in existence like the one Luke and Leia race through the forests of Endor? A project running since 2008 has finally come up with an eye-popping aerial vehicle. Though it originates from a design from 1960s which was abandoned because of stability and rollover issues, Aerofex Corp. — a California based firm has fixed the issues by creating a mechanical system which has led the dream come true! This drone has two control bars at knee-level that allows vehicle to respond to pilot’s leaning movements and natural sense of balance.
As per the statement of Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex, the testing was limited to an altitude of 15 feet and speed of 30mph taking into account the safety of the pilot; otherwise there were no technological limitations. The testing was done in California’s Mojave Desert.
Quite fascinating is the concept, but unfortunately the riders can’t enjoy a ride. Aerofex does not plan to immediately develop and sell a manned version. Instead, it sees the aerial vehicle as a test platform for an unmanned drone — heavy lift robotic workhorse, carrying supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain. Aerofex claims the bike to be as easy to drive as a bicycle. No pilot training is required to drive the drone because of its intuitive controls. All of it happens mechanically without the need of electronics, leave alone complicated artificial intelligence and flight system.
The aerial machine is a charm in itself, but inefficient as compared to helicopter due to its shorter rotor blades. But at the same time it has unique performance advantages like flight between the trees, under the bridge, close to the walls, etc. The company plans to fly the second version of the vehicle in October 2012 and prepare an unmanned version by the end of 2013. The hovering drone certainly is a big step by Aerofex towards the social benefit.