A deal to develop and build a manned, functional hoverbike has been announced by UK and US engineers in collaboration with the US Department of Defence.
The original bi-copter hoverbike design was handcrafted from carbon fibre with a foam core, but it was later adapted to a quadcopter design by Malloy Aeronautics. The engineers then built a one-third scale model of the hoverbike in Hampshire before marketing the small-scale model to help raise funds to continue developing the manned version.
The hoverbike prototype is built for many of the jobs that a helicopter is used for, but without the problems inherent with helicopter design, said the engineers. Malloy has now teamed up with US defence research and development firm Survice to develop the vehicle in Maryland, USA.
Stapleton and Mark Butkiewicz from Survice were joined by Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford at the Paris Air Show to announce the opening of the US office to develop the hoverbike for the US Army.
Butkiewicz said: “The Department of Defence is interested in hoverbike technology because it can support multiple roles. It can transport troops over difficult terrain and when it's not used in that purpose it can also be used to transport logistics, supplies and it can operate in both a manned and unmanned asset. It can also operate as a surveillance platform.”
“We've been working with Malloy Aeronautics to develop a full-scale version of the scale model and the next step is to do additional testing and then to design and construct prototypes that meet military requirements,” he said.
The full-scale hoverbike features advanced stability and can be controlled to fly by itself on a pre-mapped flight path, return to home, loiter and follow the controller. The developers said the hoverbike's low cost and practical size lends itself to operations such as search and rescue missions, first-responder emergency services and cargo insertion into confined spaces. It features offset and overlapping rotor blades, designed to reduce weight and platform area and has guards around the rotor blades to minimize rotor-strike.
In the future, the hoverbike could be used as a multi-role tactical reconnaissance vehicle, supporting both military and humanitarian missions. Stapleton insisted Malloy Aeronautics will remain an independent company for now and hopes to also tap into the commercial and leisure markets.