Testing out a Star Wars-style hover bike in the Mojave desert

I really, really hope that this is real and not another cruel hoax by Robert Zemeckis*.

Popular Science says it's legit, and that you wouldn't need any special training to drive the thing:

Brought to you by aerospace firm Aerofex, the bike runs on a pair of powerful fans. It picks up on instinctive movements people make while riding a bicycle or motorbike, then moves in the same way (except, you know, flying), meaning anyone can have a go at it. For safety reasons, they've tested it at 30 mph and 15 feet high, although earlier versions of it went as fast as a helicopter.

Read more at Popular Science

(*shakes fist in the air* ZEMECKIS!)


  1. Cool stuff! But this being America, if someone drops their beloved coffee into the front fan… KABLOW!

    Still, impressive. 

  2. This is real. The company responsible made a presentation to the AHS at their annual convention up in San Fran last December. I was there.

    1. That was the “Future Vertical Lift Aircraft Design Conference” or something, from the American Helicopter Society. It’s over my head, but the paper the company presented that explains the engineering behind this vehicle is here.

  3. Would it be able to cross a deep ditch without the sudden loss of ground effect causing mayhem?  The aerodynamics get weird and turbulent that close to the ground, and this has  been the Achilles heel of many vstol designs. 

    With a fan in the front and back, unless it’s running some good software, it might land upside down like a car going off a cliff (unlike Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Thelma and Louise).

    I’m sure it’s do-able, but it’s not clear this product has it.

    1. Would it be able to cross a deep ditch without the sudden loss of ground effect causing mayhem?

      “Not being able to cross a deep ditch” is hardly an uncommon limitation for wheeled vehicles either.

      1. And yet a skateboard does better on the half pipe than a 1968 Buick Vista Cruiser station wagon. 

      2. “Not being able to cross a deep ditch” is hardly an uncommon limitation for wheeled vehicles either.


    2. According to the company, ground effect got nothin’ to do with it. 

      “Test-bed 6, Hovercraft 2
      An aircraft has six degrees of freedom and control, a hovercraft has two.  A hovercraft relies on the surface for lift and stability, enabling simpler control, but keeping it close to the ground. Leave the ground – by even a few feet, and you need full control about all three axis – like any aircraft. 
      The test-bed is designed as a free-flier and is not limited to low altitude. Its domain is in the air. Its purpose is to develop flight technologies that may broaden access to aviation.
      Enormous respect for hovercraft – they have their own art and merit, however we fly on a different science.”

      For that matter, the PS story, quoted right here on BB, says “they’ve tested it at … 15 feet high”. Which seems sufficient for your common or garden ditch.

      (The Aerofex page also specifically says there’s no software control system at all, it’s evidently all mechanical.)

  4. Looks really cool but after having an experience as a youth where I managed to flip my bike end over…… I’d just be too concerned with the knowledge that the ridged unforgiving wheels had been replaced with even more unforgiving spinning blades. 

      1. But for God’s sake, don’t leave it running in your bedroom at night with the door closed.

  5. I’ve always wondered about the debris cloud that these things are NOT supposed to create in the science fiction universe – Skimmer bikes, flying cars and whatnot were always nice, visible and in-focus.

     Nobody’s ever established if they were directed-air powered, or some sort of limited anti-gravity, controlled-slingshot vehicle. Somebody should get on that.

    As for this hovercraft – Kewl, but I won’t be really impressed until they come up with a stealth version.

    1. I’ve always assumed most are anti-gravity based hover systems.  Propulsion is a different matter.  My irk has been more with large ships landing and creating hardly any surrounding movement, dust, grass, trees, ect..  I mean if you have what look like some type of thruster firing at the ground you kind of expect to see some kind of force reaction from it.

      1.  Righto – But even anti-grav vehicles should be displacing air as they settle to the ground. At least rustle the grass or something. Because as obsessive geeks, we DEMAND believability.

    2. One of the other videos clearly shows it tearing up hard-packed desert.  It would leave a swath of destruction wherever it goes.

  6. In high school I had a friend who was convinced that hoverboards were real. A real nice kid, sweet-tempered, a little odd, you know, artistic. 
    I asked him why they hadn’t been released yet since the movie had come out several years previously.  I’ll never forget the look of crushed dreams on his guileless face.  He plays in a heavy metal band now…
    This looks plausible but totally useless in reality, so I’m calling B.S. (remember the Hyanide?).

  7. This is pretty clearly an updating of the Hiller Pawnee http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiller_VZ-1_Pawnee and Piasecki Airgeep http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piasecki_VZ-8_Airgeep They were both (fairly) stable without computer intervention, and flew well out of ground effect.

    OTOH, they don’t seem to have a heck of a lot to recommend them over conventional helicopters. Unless one can be made to fit into ultralight size and power restrictions, you’d still need a pilots license. They may be easier to control, but “stick and throttle” flying is a small part of learning to be a responsible pilot. And I don’t see any way that it can autorotate, the helicopter equivalent of gliding to the ground, so if that engine quits (and it’s usually small and running flat-out to keep it light) pilot’s about to have a very, very bad day.

  8. Looks infinitely cooler than the one “powered by an ordinary vacuum cleaner motor!”
     Can I still order one from the back page of my favorite comic?

  9. As a child, I asked the old man, who is an electrical engineer, ‘why there are no wireless welding guns?’. He replied, “Because the battery would weigh too much to hold.” That was back in the 70’s.

    Although, Tesla may have  had other ideas about that. Just ask the Morgans.  

    There is a crazy idea the Ancients used harmonics vibration to move massive stones. I can’t source it, call it a red herring but it’s possible. Sound can move objects or worse. Audio harmonic would not disrupt sedimentation or debris, merely vibrate it. Although that is most likely, not the case, in this case.

  10. I didn’t realize “helicopter” is a unit of velocity. “earlier versions …went as fast as a helicopter.” What is that is MPH or m/s? Well, I’m pretty sure they meant “as fast as a toy helicopter” since the average 2-bladed news chopper comfortably flies at well over 100 MPH.
    cute concept . . . don’t really understand why they put the operator in such an awkward position. reclining offers a much better field of vision.

  11. I find it amazing that someone has just invented the hovercraft. I was pretty sure that I rode on one in the 70’s.

  12. This should be a meme, or as we used to say back in the 90’s, an in-reference.  Applicable for whenever something depicted – usually fictionally – exceeds our expectations, thus leading us to be let-down that the reality is not as great.  Curiosity rover does moonwalks and somersaults on Mars?  (*shakes fist in the air* ZEMECKIS!)

  13. I’d give this thing ago if you sat inside it and it had a roll-bar. At the moment, I’d hate to have some kind of mechanical/electronics failure or discover a new edge to the flight envelop at speed. Guess that’s why they limited the speed so much. I think I’d rather tumble off a motorbike at higher speed, because it would probably be less distance to the ground and less possibility of getting crush by your vehicle. Should be interesting to see where this project goes, anyway.

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