Sadly, You Can’t Buy This Hoverbike

The LA Times posted a story about a company called Aerofex that built a real-life hover bike very reminiscent of the vehicles embedded in the redwoods of the forest moon of Endor.

The bike itself is a pair of ducted fans, with the pilot straddling the craft amidship. Aerofex claims the ducts on their hoverbike prevent the recirculating flow of air that causes dust or snow to completely obscure a helicopter pilot’s vision when landing.

From the Times’ article, Aerofex doesn’t have any plans to make this hoverbike commercially available and is instead meant to be a concept vehicle for future UAVs.

On the Aerofex blog, there’s a ton of videos showing off the capabilities of this bike. From what we can gather, it doesn’t seem like this hoverbike can climb higher than a few inches off the ground, so it’s of questionable utility when not flying around a dry lake bed.

Surprisingly, Aerofex says their bike doesn’t require any artificial stabilization or software; it’s controlled by the pilot leaning front to back and side to side. We’ll take that as an indication this hoverbike may be easy for someone to build in a garage, and we’ll be sure to post the first Aerofex hoverbike clone that shows up on our tip line.

You can check out a video of the hoverbike in action after the break.


32 thoughts on “Sadly, You Can’t Buy This Hoverbike

  1. This thing looks noisy, dangerous, and fun as all hell to ride. Sadly, I doubt anything quite like it will reach the market.

    I’m guessing they would need FAA and DOT approval to sell the things, not to mention some form of liability protection.

  2. I wish I could find the reference, but Grummond or Northrop or one of those guys build a single-fan single-man infantry platform similar to this in the 50s. It was a proof-of-concept powered by an umbilical, but they also found that the platform was completely stable without complicated controls, and that motion could be controlled simply by shifting the center of gravity. I imagine it’s related to the same effect that keeps a ball centered in a fast air flow.

    1. The Hiller flying platforms which used two contra rotating props in a single duct. At least one modern version has been built and test flown.

      Also look up the Williams WASP X-Jet. Nicknamed the “Flying Pulpit” it used a Williams cruise missile engine mounted vertically with the thrust ducted to blow straight down on the axis of the center of gravity.

      A pilot controlled it mainly by leaning and turning the throttle up and down. It also had two slim rudder vanes up either side of the rear entryway.

      The WASP could fly at 60~70 MPH with a duration of around 45 minutes. Williams tried to get the US military interested in it during the 70’s and 80’s but the same unimaginative top brass that couldn’t think of a use for Hiller’s platform couldn’t think of anything to do with the vastly better WASP. There’s old videos of them on Youtube.

      Geeze, a couple hundred of these, with sidemounts for a couple of M-16 rifles or an M-16 and a grenade launcher, could enable a small flying infantry force to be a fast spearhead to quickly secure an objective and neutralize ground to air attack capabilities for helicopters bringing in the rest of the force. A WASP would be like its namesake insect, fast, highly maneuverable and very hard to swat out of the air.

      Built with modern composite materials their speed or flight duration would be extended and quite a bit of projectile resistance for the vehicle and pilot could be provided.

      They could also be used at roadblocks and checkpoints. Something threatening comes along, have a couple of soldiers hop on their armed WASPs and take to the air.

  3. I can think of a few minor changes that would greatly improve performance, efficiency, speed, and stability.

    1) Put a tubular canvas skirt around it.
    2) Remove 1 fan and mount the other vertically and pointing toward the rear.
    3) Duct some of the fan thrust into the plenum under the skirt, and a little more into the skirt tube to inflate it.
    4) Add a rudder surface behind the fan.
    5) Call it a hovercraft.

  4. Hackaday summary is not quite right, this thing CAN fly higher, but it is limited to flying a few feet off the ground and a maximum speed of 30mph for safety reasons, and presumably it’s also a lot easier to control if you don’t have to worry about your altitude.

    “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, De Roche said.”


  5. I’ve seen this article floating around the internet for the last few days, but I see one question unanswered: How long does the fuel last? Does this thing run out of fuel in ten minutes or can it hover for a couple hours? I assume it’s somewhere in between, but I’ve seen no word.

    1. Its a study machine, not a production vehicle. Most likely what you see only carries enough fuel for 30ish minutes of operation tops (I’m just guessing here). Enough to be convienient but not so much that you waste energy lifting fuel you won’t need, or carry too much fuel in case of accidents.

  6. Actually, about the “lean to control” – we enjoyed that with the Popular Mechanics’ Pegasus (HoverCraft):

    It was a blast to build, and lots of fun to ride – and stupid-simple to learn to drive! Safety wasn’t too much of an issue – it was like riding on the puck in an air-hockey game. Looks like this Hoverbike would be even _more_ fun to ride…

    1. Its not just “lean-to-control” there’s some sort of mechanical system operated by knee pressure that does something to augment stability. When you shift your body to compensate for the vehicle starting to tip you naturally press on these levers and that does something to counter the tip.

      I can’t find anything describing how this works, but it is a little more involved than described.

  7. For those saying that it flies to low and slow, or that its not new and we were doing this in the ’60’s –

    1. All the videos out now are of an early prototype that is being used for study. All the maneuvers, speeds, and heights are kept small as they study the limits of the machine.

    2. All the ’60’s models suffered from severe stability issues – issues that kept the tech from being useful then and are *supposedly* solved in the Aerofex model through their whatever-they-did mechanical (vice complicated software) system.

    3. *Supposedly* the twin ducted-fan propulsion system is not limited to ground-effect heights, as such it should be (eventually) capable of helicopter-like performance – though not even with a helo’s crappy efficiency due to the small rotor size. That’s why it wasn’t built as a hovercraft – its not supposed to work like one.

  8. The 60’s models did not have stability issues, just military utility issues. They were hand flown, just as this is and likely flies quite similarly to the AirGeep. Machines such as the AirGeep saw a lot of test time (their controlability was well understood), but ultimately never made it to production.

    This bike differs from the AirGeep designs in that it does not use a cyclic rotor for roll control, making the collective pitch rotor greatly simplified and lighter. This machine uses segmented compartments on the trailing edge of the duct that open and close individually to produce roll and pitch moments. It’s a pretty neat engineering solution.

    What is most impressive is the amount of real technical work done by this guy (see his 2012 AHS paper, and of course all of his test videos). His machine is squarely in the realm of possibility with ducted fans in terms of disc and power loading and control power, compared to some other attempts. I doubt this bike will go faster than 60-70 kts, as the configuration will experience a strong nose up pitching motion that will overpower the pilot’s pitch authority (AirGeep had this problem). However, his control system may enable him to overcome this problem as it control duct lip lift, the main source of this nose up moment. This machine is certainly capable of flight higher than 30 ft, but if you were building a new flying vehicle, wouldn’t you take it slow as well?

  9. I’d really like to see this flying at 15 ft, just to rule out ground effects. The Avro car couldn’t fly more than a couple feet high because of ground effects, not for lack of trying.

  10. Reminds me of Star Wars and the pod racers… not sure why no one has said such…

    Makes me want to make one or at least try. What type of motors are made for such RPMs? What if one made turbine or jet powered units (2 engines left and right side) … ahh the dreams!

    1. Perhaps the reason you are the first commenter to say something about star wars is the rest of us read the VERY FIRST LINE, “very reminiscent of the vehicles embedded in the redwoods of the forest moon of Endor.”. Having a true star wars reference was enough…NO one really needs to bring up “Episode NONE” ever again.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.