It might not jam a comlink or come with a blaster cannon, but you can still live out your fantasies of cruising through the forest on a 74-Z speeder bike thanks to Russian start-up, Hoversurf.
Star Wars fans collectively experienced spasms of joy when a video featuring the first commercially manned hoverbike hit YouTube in mid-February. Since then, the video has garnered over a million views. The Scorpion-3 hoverbike is equipped with four drone propellers, powerful enough to blast both quadcopter and pilot to an altitude of 33 feet.
This isn’t the first hoverbike to survive a maiden voyage with a human pilot. British hobbyist, Colin Furze, is still the first man to take to the skies on a hoverbike, which is even more remarkable considering he built said bike in his garage. A joy to behold, it was also a one-off and not geared towards the mass market.
Enter Hoversurf with the Scorpion-3, the first hoverbike available for sale — although it’ll set you back a staggering $150,000.
This jumbo-sized quadcopter is built for the adrenaline junkie, although thrill seekers may be disappointed to discover that the in-built safety system automatically regulates the height and speed of your ride.
Half-drone, half-motorbike, the Scorpion-3 can carry up to 266 pounds and reach speeds of 33 mph. With a maximum airtime of 27 minutes, it’s not going to take you on a cross-country tour, but it’s one hell of a way to make an entrance.
Not everybody is ready to throw their regular bike into the trash compactor just yet. “So this is what a human juicer looks like,” mused one user on Twitter, presumably after noticing the lack of propeller guards separating the human passenger from the rather deadly-looking propellers.
Both The Verge and Mashable were having none of it.
“World’s first hoverbike looks cool as hell, but will probably kill you” announced the Verge. Mashable was more succinct: “Whatever you do, don’t fall off.”
Although Hoversurf may need to integrate more safety features before everyone is a convert, the Scorpion-3 is just one of many exciting new hovercraft prototypes that have cropped up recently.
As the US military is wont to do, they’re already light-years ahead when it comes to hoverbike technology. The Army Research Laboratory unveiled a flying quadcopter in early January, known as a joint tactical aerial resupply vehicle, or JTARV for short.
The JTARV is longer, sleeker, and admittedly more of an aerial BAMF than any other hovercraft on the market. But Star Wars wasn’t so much the inspiration for the JTARV as…Amazon Prime?
Tim Vong, associate chief of ARL’s Protection Division likened the JTARV to “Amazon on the battlefield.”
“Anywhere on the battlefield, Soldiers can potentially get resupplied in less than 30 minutes,” he said.
The JTARV prototype is currently electric, but researchers are already exploring utilizing a hybrid propulsion system which would spearhead a faster and more powerful hoverbike, capable of carrying 800 pounds and travelling up to 125 miles.
“We’re also looking to integrate advanced intelligent navigation and mission planning. We’re looking to end up with a modular, stable platform that can be used for even more dynamic and challenging missions.” Vong told visitors from the Department of Defense.
So when can we expect to see a fleet of drones travelling across the skies? If you live in Dubai, it could be as soon as July.
The EHang 184 will be the world’s first autonomous air vehicle (AAV) used as an air taxi. Come July, Dubai expects to have its first fleet of AAV taxis taking flight across the city, and alleviating some of the city’s traffic woes in the process.
Much like calling for an Uber, you’ll use an app to request this egg-shaped quadcopter, which can accommodate one passenger and a small suitcase weighing up to 220 pounds. After you’ve strapped yourself in, you’ll simply enter your destination on a touch screen display and the EHang will self-pilot through the skies to your destination. It can stay in the air for 30 minutes and has a range of 31 miles.
If the concept of a self-driving car makes you wince, you’re unlikely to feel comforted by the idea of combining self-driving technology with heights. But EHang assures potential passengers that the aircraft is totally safe. According to their website, if the power system starts behaving abnormally, the EHang can still operate a normal flight plan. If anything malfunctions, the AAV will automatically land in the nearest available area.
BMW Lego Bike
Hoversurf put the first pilot on a hoverbike, but BMW and Lego are hot on their heels with their own hoverbike, that looks much safer than the Scorpion-3. Designed by students using Lego,
The concept impressed BMW enough to build a full-sized replica. Sadly, it’s still a concept, although from the video below, it looks like the slickest model of the lot.
When you look at emerging hoverbike technology, do you see:
- Your other Star Wars fantasy coming true
- A grim, painful way to die
- All of the above
Let us know in the comments! And if you liked this post, be sure to check out the time a water ski company and YouTube celebrity recreated the speeder-bike scene on a lake.