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, similar in principle to Chris Malloy's Hoverbike prototype we've previously covered. 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.
According to a report in InnovationNewsDaily on Monday, Aerofex has resurrected 1960s research technology which had been abandoned due to stability problems. 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.
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"It essentially captures the translations between the two in three axis (pitch, roll and yaw), and activates the aerodynamic controls required to counter the movement—which lines the vehicle back up with the pilot," Aerofex founder Mark De Roche told InnovationNewsDaily. "Since [the pilot's] balancing movements are instinctive and constant, it plays out quite effortlessly to him."
InnovationNewsDaily reports that although the hover bike is capable of greater altitudes and speeds, test flights to date have been limited to 30 mph (48 km/h) and 15 feet (4.6 meters) for safety reasons.
In recent days and weeks Aerofex has released a number of videos on its Youtube channel and "flightlog" Tumblr page. A video uploaded to the latter back in March appears to show the prototype losing control during a test flight on February 13 2010. "It would take 16 months, two inventions, and 41 field tests before we were back in the air," the caption reads. "The result of that effort on control would be dramatic. Our take-away: Fail sooner and never again test on Friday the 13th." My calendar indicates that Friday 13, 2010 was a Saturday. Subsequent videos appear to show more successful tests.
According to InnovationNewsDaily, Aerofex has no immediate plans to commercially launch a manned hover bike but instead sees the technology as a test platform for new unmanned drones. Outlets including Fox and Yahoo! News have since picked up InnovationNewsDaily's story, and there appears to be no suggestion from any quarter at this stage that the authenticity of the videos is in question. Here's a sample video. You be the judge.