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Transportation Technology

Video Purports To Show Successful Hover Bike Test Flights 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the bumpercars:-the-next-generation dept.
Zothecula writes "Videos released by California-based tech research company Aerofex appear to show successful test flights of a prototype hover bike that gains lift from two large ducted rotors. Aeroflex claims its hover bike allows the pilot intuitive control over pitch, roll and yaw without need of artificial intelligence, flight software or electronics of any kind."

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Video Purports To Show Successful Hover Bike Test Flights

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  • Oh! Look! (Score:1, Troll)

    by rrohbeck (944847)

    A small hovercraft without a skirt!
    Yawn. Ground effect only. That's not flying.

    • Re:Oh! Look! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @01:52AM (#41077989)

      A small hovercraft without a skirt!
      Yawn. Ground effect only. That's not flying.

      And, so what? It's called a hover bike not a 'flying' bike.

      A flying bike would require ridiculous thrust if it were made out of something more substantial than balsa wood. I doubt you'd want to ride something like that without an enclosed cockpit.

    • Re:Oh! Look! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:00AM (#41078013)

      The article claims they flew it at 15 ft, and that they think they can way higher like 10,000 ft: if true that's definitely not just ground effect, but unfortunately video doesn't even show the 15 ft trials, only hovering really close to the ground. I would expect them to show off their top tests too.

      The think I'm mostly wondering about is stability. How do they do that? Hovercrafts are notorious for their instability, especially smaller craft. Flying them is a tough balancing act.

      At least the videos look genuine to me, so it seems to be a real product. Oh well, time will tell how true it all is.

      • by Splab (574204)

        If it turned out to be only ground effect I'd still want one, looks fun!

      • by shaitand (626655)

        I'm reasonably impressed just by what I saw in the video. That level of directional control is impressive for a hovercraft. From what I've seen you normally wouldn't be able to keep one in your lane on the road which is one of the primary reasons you don't seem them used for consumer travel.

        If it can get substantial height that is a real bonus but it is cool stuff either way.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          If there is a bit of wind: Free haircuts for pedestrians!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It does seem to show a little wobble, so as a quick question what happens at if a huge sudden gust of wind (very common at altitude) capsizes you? Can you flip it back upright?

        Also what happens if you crash, the fan casing fails and the the blades come towards you at full speed? Imagine that'll make the skin torn-off injuries coming off a motorbike look like a scratch.

        • Keep that Star War'sy speeder-bike thingy away from my new car's paint job! I can see pebbles and dust flying around everywhere this thing goes. For stability's sake, throwing a couple of gyroscopes on wouldn't hurt either. As proof of concept, looks promising. I'd still wear a helmet, for now.
      • There are careful aircraft engineers and there are dead ones. I wouldn't be surprised if the max height was done remotely with a tether.
        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          Article suggests it was done with a driver on board, though it's not mentioned explicitly. They claim they have not tried to push it to max. height and speed yet (for safety reasons indeed). Though a fall off such a thing at 5m high and going some 50 km/hr will hurt. A lot.

      • Re:Oh! Look! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by flyingsquid (813711) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @12:23PM (#41082409)

        The think I'm mostly wondering about is stability. How do they do that? Hovercrafts are notorious for their instability, especially smaller craft. Flying them is a tough balancing act.

        My impression is that it doesn't have good stability. Stability refers to the tendency of an aircraft to correct deviations in its flight path. An aircraft has inherent stability in three axes- pitch, yaw, and roll. Pitch refers to the nose pitching up and down, yaw refers to the nose yawing left and right, and roll is rolling about the long axis. So if a gust of wind rolls one wing up, the plane will automatically compensate and level out-without any action on the part of the pilot. This machine seems to perhaps have decent pitch and yaw stability, but roll stability seems to be pretty minimal. You can watch the machine slowly rolling in the movie; it's presumably the result of having a high center of gravity, like a man standing in a canoe.

        As far as I can tell, the machine isn't actually stable, instead the pilot continually makes small adjustments to keep the machine flying level. According to the article, "Aerofex's new proof-of-concept craft keeps itself stable by responding to a human rider's natural sense of balance" and "The company has apparently rectified the issue with the addition of knee-level "control bars" on either side of the vehicle that make the vehicle more responsive to the pilot's movements." So from the video and the article it would seem that they haven't made the machine stable, they've made it controllable, and given the pilot the ability to continually make small adjustments to keep it level. If he gets distracted, of course...

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          It's claimed to be as easy as riding a bike. When cycling I never pay attention to keeping balance, my body does that automatically. The suggestion is that this machine works much the same.

          • by rpresser (610529)

            Indeed. A bicycle is never stable either (unless it's lying down).

          • A bicycle is not flying.

            With a bike, you control balance directly -- i.e. leaning and whatnot actually dominates the force on the bike, allowing you to control it with the same reflexes that allow you to stand up and run away from tigers.

            What they have with this thing is controls. You're once removed from the action -- your reflexes create inputs that the device acts on. It's a second-order effect, and that means it is much, much more difficult to do without concentration.

        • There was an Aussie or Kiwi guy working on something similar that had a better layout - it was like a motorcycle with the ducted fans at seat level. This should be more stable than standing completely above the fans.

      • It's a shame the cameras didn't catch that test. Maybe next time?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The article claims they flew it at 15 ft, and that they think they can way higher like 10,000 ft

        I'd like to see the calculations they used to arrive at this figure. There's a 25% engine power loss when operating at that altitude. Considering there's also propeller efficiency losses due to lower air density, I highly doubt they have the power to do so.

        From the website:
        Airspeed Vne - 150 KIAS (untested)
        Hover (out of ground effect) - >10,000ft (estimated)
        Dry weight - 110kg
        Max gross weight - 270kg
        Total thrust - 295kg

        I don't think anyone in Denver will be using this craft. That said, riding this looks l

    • Re:Oh! Look! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:48AM (#41078205) Journal

      In the 50s, the military paid for development of similar technology [si.edu], but the power:weight ratio and range just wasn't there with 50s engine technology.
      TFA mentions that they're staying under 15ft for safety reasons, not because it requires the ground effect to operate.

      The idea for this basic design was thought up in the 40s and the only reason it was abandoned in the 50s/60s was because the military decided to put their money behind conventional helicopters.

      • by SteveAyre (209812)

        "but the power:weight ratio and range just wasn't there with 50s engine technology"

        Yep, modern batteries should give the required energy storage capacity while electric motors give much better power/torque at very very low weight. Plus the lightweight materials to build the chassis which just didn't exist before the space race and have only improved since then.

        In the 50s I imagine the batteries meant an electric motor was just impossible without tethering you to the mains, so it required a internal combusti

        • Where are you getting your figures for all of that?

          The Tesla Roadster is based on the Lotus Elise chassis. The Elise has 217bhp and weighs 914kg, which is 241 bhp/ton. The Tesla Roadster has 248bhp and weighs 1283kg, so 196 bhp/ton. And guess which has a better range?

          Personally I'd love an electric vehicle for commuting and short trips, but what you said doesn't really make sense.

    • Re:Oh! Look! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @03:01AM (#41078259)

      Wow, what an incredibly dumb comment. Look at the article title: "Hover Bike". Go look up the definition of "hover", as in "hovercraft". They don't need to fly above ground effect, that's the whole point of a hovercraft, is to stay close to the ground but hover enough that you can fly over rough (roadless) terrain and water.

      • by shaitand (626655)

        Unlike most hovercraft this looks like it has decent control. A normal hovercraft couldn't be kept from floating into oncoming traffic on the road. This looks like it could. Beyond rough terrain that has significant benefits in reducing wear on the road and eliminating tires and the hassles that come with them.

        • Re:Oh! Look! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @07:18AM (#41079331) Homepage

          Unlike most hovercraft this looks like it has decent control.

          Huh? I watched the video twice and didn't see any impressive braking or steering. Or speed.

          All I saw was a guy driving like he was constantly worried about falling into the whirling blades six inches under his feet.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Just think how much more efficient it would be with a skirt. Could probably get high enough off the ground to go somewhere other than the desert too.

  • This thing looks marginally stable on flat ground in ideal conditions for 5 seconds... I've had more successful "flight" tests falling out of bed in the AM.

    Also, please buy a camera. Or a phone... On second thought how did they even TAKE a video this bad.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @07:21AM (#41079345) Homepage

      I'm just glad the video had no sound. I don't think my eardrums could have taken it.

    • First the guys are Engineers, basically math geeks so there cinematography skills isn't so hot. Stability seems pretty good for a proof-of-concept even with an engineer in the driver's seat, I've seen Apache pilots flying a lot more squirrely with the stick of a Kiowa in their hands instead. Strap that thing to the ass of a real rotary wing pilot or even a hardcore motorcycle freak and you'll see a big difference, hell just dropping the center of gravity below the pilots pelvis and the ducted fans above it

      • by DeTech (2589785)

        Yeah, Drop the CG on the thing and it'll be more stable, also a ultralight helo... as-is, yeah right, when's that last time you've seem a rotary wing fly upside down using a manual control system. Not a proof of concept.

        It's pretty obvious that this "thing" doesn't work and they're just looking to stir up a round of suckers, I mean investors. This is almost as bad as the aussi guy who built one and chained it to the ground at 3 points to keep it from flipping.

  • Slashdot falls for another obvious fake article.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Slashdot falls for another obvious fake article.

      If it's a fake, it's pretty conservative.

      I'd think a faker would want to demonstrate flying 20+ feet above the ground and zooming around a bit more, not hovering ~1.5 feet above the ground and slowly maneuvering.

      Why would they bother faking something not much different from an average hovercraft?

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        They claim they can fly as high as they want. You'd think they'd support that claim with the video.

    • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:49AM (#41078213) Journal

      They sure went to a lot of trouble for a fake product.
      Registering their website in 1997, going to conferences in 2012.
      That's the kind of trolling that takes planning and dedication

      Future Vertical Lift Aircraft Design Conference 2012 [vtol.org] (PDF)
      3:30 PM - 4:00 PM Thrust Augmentation & Control of Ducted-Fan VTOL Air-Vehicles -- Mark De Roche, Aerofex Corporation

  • Is it allowed through the drive-thru?
    • by rvw (755107)

      Is it allowed through the drive-thru?

      Only when the girl at the counter needs a hairdo.

    • Is it allowed through the drive-thru?

      It wouldn't registered as drive-thru have weight sensors to tell the person when a car approaches. I've tried going through on rollerblades, but it wouldn't trigger the weight requirement. (Didn't want to go inside of out safety concerns.)

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @01:16AM (#41077853)

    When I saw the term "hover bike", I thought they were talking about something human powered.

    Still, I wouldn't mind getting to ride on it...

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @01:19AM (#41077865)

    My impression is that the driver is under high stress and may have trouble to control this thing. May not be nearly as stable as the video tries to imply.

  • WASP X-Jet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penurious Penguin (2687307) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @01:28AM (#41077903) Homepage Journal
    And somehow, for some reason of time rather garbled and strange, this seems so boring in comparison to this wonderful antique: Williams WASP X-Jet [youtube.com]

    I'm not saying I don't want one, but if given the choice....
  • Until I can have the board from Back to the Future ::YAWN::
  • why don't we just line our streets and cars with (electro) magnets?

    (What? Afraid of the poles reversing?)

    • That would be way more expensive than each person owning one of these.

  • by tbonefrog (739501) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:24AM (#41078103)

    The terrain looks suspiciously like the surface of Mars. Don't be a sucker. This could not work in Earth gravity.

    • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:58AM (#41078251) Homepage Journal

      This looks suspiciously like the Black Rock desert in Nevada. About a hundred miles North and a little East of Reno, near the town of Gerlach.

      The place is the largest section of "flat" in the US. It's the remains of a prehistoric lake (Lahontan [wikipedia.org]) that has dried up, leaving behind a perfectly flat dried mud surface.

      It's where the land-speed records are set. It's where amateur rockets are launched. It's where Burning Man is held.

  • So nobody's invented a ballast tank that works by creating a vacuum yet? No lightweight material that can maintain shape at 14 psi?

    To me a helicopter/hot air ballon/motorcycle hybrid seems feasible.

    • by Viol8 (599362)

      "So nobody's invented a ballast tank that works by creating a vacuum yet?"

      The difference in lift between between a tank filled with hydrogen and one with a vacuum will be negligable because H2 is such a light gas already so its not worth the bother.

      "No lightweight material that can maintain shape at 14 psi?"

      Not light enough to use in an airship.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It just doesn't work like that. Small tanks lose because of square-cube; for positive-pressure, the solution is just make it bigger, but for negative-pressure, big tanks have to be thick, else they fail by buckling.

      What's wrong with hydrogen? Do you think you can build internal bracing lighter than it?

    • by SWPadnos (191329)

      Gases occupy 22.4 liters of volume per mole of material at STP (standard temperature and pressure, which is 300 K, 1 atmosphere pressure). One mole of material weighs as many grams as the sum of the atomic numbers of the atoms in each molecule. Air is mostly Nitrogen, which is atomic number 7 and has an atomic weight of ~14. Since Nitrogen gas has two atoms per molecule, one mole (22.4 liters) of nitrogen weighs about 28 grams.

      So if you take a 1000 liter (257 gallon) tank, and get it down to perfect vacu

      • by JimboFBX (1097277)

        Yes there is, because you could create it on demand rather than carrying the gases with you all the time.

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @02:46AM (#41078199)
    All the articles I've seen they boast of this mechanical system for balancing the craft. The guy looks terrified to move even slightly. This type of VTOL craft is inherently unstable. There's a good reason he never guns it, the craft would flip. I'm sure it's perfectly capable of reaching a 100 to 200 feet or more but not safely. The LEM for the Moon landing was very similar but there was more finger crossing than technology involved in the first Moon landing. It's a cool idea but any moderately safe system would have to involve computers for balance correction rather then a mechanical linked system. They can become unstable in less than a second. Hearing it was mechanical in nature made me call bullshit before I even saw the video. After seeing it I'm still convinced that there's no passive way to make them safe. Even the Moeller Skycar with all it's computer assistance never got more than 15 feet off the ground. The Harrier jet was one of the few successful VTOL crafts that ever was ever widely accepted.
    • by slacka (713188)

      They are working on a very similar concept in Australia.
      http://www.hover-bike.com/index.html [hover-bike.com]
      I love the concept, but I agree. the stability problem needs to to be fixed with computers and gyros, not human balance. And when someone does finally nail it, it's going to be one hell of a toy!

    • Hearing it was mechanical in nature made me call bullshit before I even saw the video.

      A gyroscope flywheel is mechanical, yet would serve such a purpose. Mechanical gyros are used in spacecraft and aircraft.
      http://www.pilotfriend.com/training/flight_training/fxd_wing/gyro.htm [pilotfriend.com]

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Flywheel by definition adds weight, and either makes the vehicle difficult to turn or increases cost and complexity significantly. What is needed is a stationkeeping electronic control system. People trying to eliminate such are kidding only themselves. Only a goddamn ninja airman can fly an inherently non-aerodynamic aircraft which requires manual control.

        • Not as hard or as heavy [hobbyking.com] as you'd imagine.

      • Mechanical gyro have pretty much been replaced by ring laser gyro [wikipedia.org] in everything except general aviation, you also need accelerometers [wikipedia.org] to do anything useful with the pilots seat out of the feedback loop.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "The LEM for the Moon landing was very similar but there was more finger crossing than technology involved in the first Moon landing. It's a cool idea but any moderately safe system would have to involve computers for balance correction"

      Actually the LEM used an analog computer for stabilisation.

    • You seem to have forgotten about helicopters. What the hell do you think they are??

    • Not sure what you are expecting the to see- the wright brother's plane didn't seem very practical either.
    • by johnkzin (917611)

      If you put the fans ABOVE the center of gravity, such that the center of lift is above the center of gravity, then: a) it will look even more "bike" like, and b) you wont need to worry about negative stability.

  • by Max_W (812974) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @03:57AM (#41078497)
    A quadrocopter can fly without a man on top, be telecommand. In this case it will be light and safe to fly in a city.

    The problem is the battery. What is needed is the miniature silent gas turbine, so that it can fly not 10 minutes, but 2 hours.
    • A quadrocopter can fly without a man on top

      What if the point of this product is, as it appears to be, to provide transport for a man?

      • by Max_W (812974)
        It is quite possible to transport urgent mail inside a city or shoot aerial videos with a light unmanned automatic quadrocopter. The problem is the battery, or the lack of a silent micro turbine.

        I do not see a point of putting a man in such a dangerous environment if it can be done by a robot.
  • Probably for obvious reasons. Flying machines, especially the hovering kind aren't known for being very quiet. And little to keep you from falling into the props. Mmmm, minced meat. Fire up the Weber.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      And little to keep you from falling into the props.

      Because of course although the designers can figure out how to make a hover bike, they haven't heard of wire mesh yet...

  • by rsmith (90057) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @05:24AM (#41078867) Homepage

    The problem with all these powered lift gizmos (like the Williams X-jet and the Hiller VZ-1) is that you tend to fall out ouf the sky when your engine fails... The Hiller VZ-1 which is also a ducted fan used *two* 30 kW engines, but barely flew out of the ground effect [si.edu] and was limited in speed. More powerful versions had other control problems.

    • by _bug_ (112702)

      Helicopters have the same problem of falling out of the sky if the engine fails. That has not stopped them from becoming quite popular.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        before I had heard about it i thought the same thing, but auto rotation landings are part of most military advanced pilot training where they cut the engine and have to land a helicopter.

    • by Amouth (879122)

      well the fan vs the jet, the fan version at least has the option of auto-rotating like a helicopter. not sure how well that works for ducted fans.

      • For autorotation you need long blades, negative pitch and enough altitude to work with. I cant see a ducted fan having much autorotation capability. They would lack the surface area and momentum necesary.

  • *sigh*

    I get tired of pointing these guys out ... but if you do your homework you will realize they are the real deal ... and they are not rushing anything just to get some cheap PR. Eventually, I am confident they will succeed:

    http://www.urbanaero.com

  • Now all they have to do is turn the fans sideways and they'll have a Manta from Unreal Tournament 2004 [upanh.com] :)

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