Aircraft

Video: Russian hoverbike loses control at 100 ft and crashes in Dubai

Video: Russian hoverbike loses...
Pucker moment: the hoverbike rider realizes the aircraft is out of control about 100 feet off the ground
Pucker moment: the hoverbike rider realizes the aircraft is out of control about 100 feet off the ground
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The Hoversurf Scorpion is a Russian multirotor hoverbike for the very brave
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The Hoversurf Scorpion is a Russian multirotor hoverbike for the very brave
Pucker moment: the hoverbike rider realizes the aircraft is out of control about 100 feet off the ground
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Pucker moment: the hoverbike rider realizes the aircraft is out of control about 100 feet off the ground

When we first saw the Hoversurf Scorpion flying motorcycle, we thought it was "just the vehicle for aspiring amputees." Four exposed propellers spinning dangerously close to the rider's limbs made us cringe, and we wondered how much would be left of the pilot in a crash.

The Moscow-based creators of this mad machine, however, threw themselves into testing and demonstration flights with extraordinary bravado, doing manned flights over concrete at altitudes nobody could expect to survive a fall from, a dirt bike helmet and armor their only protection.

When the Dubai police force signed a deal to start testing and demonstrating these things, we called it "100 percent a publicity stunt, and probably quite a dangerous one." The mere thought of flying one of these early prototypes near people struck us as a huge safety risk.

The Hoversurf Scorpion is a Russian multirotor hoverbike for the very brave
The Hoversurf Scorpion is a Russian multirotor hoverbike for the very brave

And now we've seen the first footage of a crash. In a secluded test area, a Scorpion pilot takes off and rapidly accelerates to an altitude of around 30 m (100 ft), at which point, according to Hoversurf, a barometer fails and the bike begins pitching wildly back and forth like a mechanical bull in the sky.

The pilot immediately begins to descend, but the aircraft's flight controller can't seem to decide where horizontal is, and it bucks again, out of control as it comes down, eventually crash landing on the two rear props before flipping over backwards on top of the rider, the front two props still spinning.

The pilot manages to escape injury, but the hoverbike is totaled. Hoversurf's description on the Youtube video: "The barometer in Dubai refused and an accident occurred – a down from a height of 30 meters. All safety systems worked well, and the pilot was not injured. Safety is our main concern. It is thanks to such incidents that our designs are becoming more safe."

We're not sure which "safety systems" they're referring to here, but this was a very lucky crash – not just for Hoversurf and the pilot, but for the entire eVTOL industry. Honestly, we admire the cojones it takes to be a personal flight pioneer in this emerging space, but there's a reason most manned tests are done over water or on tethers. We're just as keen as anyone to see manned multirotors hit the skies, but these brave pilots have families, and rushing ahead of safety guidelines could set the whole space back if it ends in disaster. Please take care, guys.

Oh, and if you'd like to try this yourself, Hoversurf will sell you a Scorpion hoverbike for US$150,000. Let us know how it goes!

Edit: if the video above is private or taken down, there are other uploads available on YouTube.

Source: Hoversurf

22 comments
PaleDale
Barometer? That has nothing to do with attitude stability, just altitude stability. I call BS on they cause of crash. Being a person carrying aircraft it should have backup systems and auto fail-over when one fails.
nick101
It's noisy and dangerous as hell, where's the order form? :D
Russell Ryan
"bike begins pitching wildly back and forth like a mechanical bull in the sky."

Thanks for that unrequited sensationalism... it TITLED calmy forward once... he began lowering... it TILTED calmy forward once again.... then when it touched down at an angle of course it flipped.

You made me expect to see his butt flyin off the seat as he holds on for dear life... but that was a CLEAR well controlled malfunction.

Borning.

Shame on your sensationalism!

(Shakes fist)
Graeme S
some things should NEVER fly
Paul Marsden
Looks like his mind wasn't on the job from moment of lift off. Things really get out of control when he takes one hand off the controls to seemingly adjust his helmet. I'm calling pilot error.
KaiserPingo
Yah, those rotors are no danger..., if you count risks like the Russians do.
Rustgecko
Lesson: Don't take your hands off the controls for a celebratory air punching when you've only be in the sky 10 seconds.
minivini
Pretty sure tapping his helmet was a signal that there was a problem. And, yeah - the way it rotated on the ground, the pilot escaped injury mostly by luck.
paul314
I guess it's possible for a failed barometer to cause the flight control system to go bughouse if it's on the same bus as all the other instruments and fails in a way that messes up all the communications on that bus. But if so, it's a sign of garbage hardware and software design. All of those sensor-type parts are under $10 a pop, and a $150K machine should have multiple copies, all isolated, with voting and failover.

It also looks from the video as if the excursions from stable flight were increasing as the vehicle headed for the ground, which is another bad sign.
martinwinlow
What's worse than loosing control of your experimental aircraft at 100' AGL? Realizing you are surrounded by high speed chopping machines at very close range with absolutely no protection. Darwin award soon to follow.