At the intersection of the motorcycle and the gyrocopter lives the flying motorcycle – combining the easy, cheap and safe flying abilities of the gyro with the loose road registration requirements of the motorbike. These quirky machines have been around for some time, but Californian inventor Dezso Molnar is trying to give the segment a kick in the pants. He's well into the development of his next-generation G2 bike, which is powered by a 162-horsepower GSX-R1000 motorcycle engine, uses a tilting two-wheel front end, and has been tested at a whopping 138 mph (222 km/h) on the salt flats. On top of plans to get this thing airborne in the coming months, he's also looking at putting together a race series for flying cars and bikes, in the interests of accelerating development for all the different ideas out there.
Two weeks into my writing career at Gizmag, and some 820 articles ago, I wrote about Larry Neal's SkyCycle, a US$37,000 road-registrable gyrocopter kit – effectively, a flying motorcycle capable of 55 mph on the road or more than 100 mph in the air.
Neal wasn't the only one working on such a concept at the time – one of the others was Californian inventor Dezso Molnar, who made some 30+ successful test flights in a similar road-legal gyro called the GT back in 2005/06.
Why a gyrocopter ... and why a motorcycle instead of a car? The motorcycle question was simple enough; American road registration is much easier to get for experimental motorcycles than cars, the regulations are a lot looser.
As for why a gyrocopter? Simplicity, ease of flight and safety. The key lift generation on a gyro is provided by an unpowered, free-spinning rotor blade on top of the vehicle, meaning that if you're a few hundred feet up in the air and the engine fails, you'll float to the ground even slower than if you had a parachute.
Not to mention, they can take off and land with only 50-100 feet worth of smooth surface as a runway.
Molnar's first-generation GT ran a 650 cc, single cylinder Rotax engine and was capable of some 100 mph on the road. More recently he's been working on the fourth generation G2, which uses a high-powered GSX-R1000 motorcycle engine to power a tandem 2-seater bike that's been tested at some 138 mph on the salt flats. That'll make it the fastest flying motorcycle around, once the G2 is fitted with its flight components.
Motorcycle enthusiasts will notice several GSX-R components festooning the G2's skeletal frame, from the headlight, to the mirrors and exhaust. They'll also be able to pick the tilting two-wheel front end, which Molnar took from a Piaggio MP3. The Piaggio system has a tilt-lock feature that can help keep the bike vertical at slow speeds. "The desire," says Molnar, "was to be able to split lanes and stay upright without extending the outriggers, which can be done with the two front wheels when locked out of tilt mode. The tilting two-wheel front end also provides unequaled stability on the highway, especially when hitting cracks or ruts which could cause a single wheel to hunt along the rise or depression."
It'd take a better man than I to go lane splitting on a priceless prototype flying motorcycle that looks about 10 feet long, but either way, Molnar is about to start ground-level testing of the propeller drive system, which runs off the same motor as the driven rear wheel, then start reducing weight on the G2 prototype and fitting it with flight gear to get it off the ground.
"The next step is to return the GT to flight status to produce some good video footage, get the G2 airborne, travel with them, and race them," Molnar tells us. " would like to travel with the G2 from Alaska to Argentina. I am moving towards consistently using flying cars and their cousins for exploration and racing to drive development and provide adventures."
He's also very keen to get other flying motorcycle and car builders involved in racing to develop the breed: "I will be launching the project 'Flying Car Racing' in the coming weeks, to include a new design, and entry-level flying car for a specific racing class to drive development of the art. Engineering for that is in progress."
One of the key beauties of Molnar's design is that it allows both the rear wheel and the flight propeller to be driven off a single, very affordable motorcycle engine. Motorcycle engines are becoming lighter, more reliable and more powerful every year, meaning that upgrading the G2 (for example, to take the 300-horsepower Kawasaki H2 turbo engine) will be a fairly easy exercise.
Molnar is also working on an electric aircraft design that he plans to release as open source for anyone who wants to build it. We look forward to seeing how it develops, and hope he takes a better camera on his Alaska-to-Argentina multi-mode journey!View gallery - 14 images