You'll likely remember Malloy Aeronautics' ambitious quadcopter Hoverbike from when Gizmag caught up with its creators last year. Well, the company has been busy in the last 10 months, today announcing a partnership with a Maryland-based military research firm to develop the vehicle for the US Department of Defense. Gizmag caught up with the Hoverbike team at the 2015 Paris Air Show.
Back in August 2014, we got up close and personal with Malloy Aeronautics' Hoverbike – a helicopter-like vehicle with electric motors driving four rotors – and were impressed with what we saw. The company recently conducted successful flight tests of the full-size electric vehicle, and development is full-steam ahead, though with a few big changes in the works.
Gizmag was on the ground at the Paris Air Show, where the company was joined by Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford to announce a new partnership with the state's defense firm – Survice Engineering. The company will work together with the UK-based Malloy Aeronautics (which is opening a US office) on the development of Hoverbike technology for the US Department of Defense, with the goal of the vehicle operating as a new class of Tactical Reconnaissance Vehicle (TRV).
Talking to Malloy Aeronautics and Survice, Gizmag learned that the Department of Defense is interested in moving development toward a gas-powered engine for the vehicle, allowing for long-haul flights and the ability to carry weightier payloads. According to Survice Engineering's Bruce Simon, those payloads, or "assets," might sometimes be equipment and supplies, but could also include a soldier in full kit, meaning it'll need to be able to handle anything up to 800 lb (363 kg) of weight.
While the team is currently focusing on ironing out all the bugs before a human element is introduced, several options are being discussed when it comes to methods of control. These include the vehicle being piloted by an onboard soldier, with a drive-by-wire system being used.
Discussions are also ongoing as to the best choice of physical controls, with options including motorcycle-like handlebars and Xbox-style gamepads. It's not currently clear whether pilots will require a license to control the craft, though this will likely hinge on whether it's being piloted remotely or not.
While developing for the military will play a big role in the future of the technology, Malloy was keen to emphasize that there's still a lot of potential for the use of the tech in humanitarian applications. For example, multiple Hoverbikes could be loaded into troop carrier aircraft (the vehicle is designed to fold up for easier transport), dispatched to disaster zones and tasked with delivering vital supplies, or even autonomously removing people from danger.
Looking forward, development of the Hoverbike will continue in both the UK and US. The vehicle has come a long way since we saw the first, dual rotor prototype back in 2011, and it's looking more likely than ever that we'll see the full-size vehicles in the sky sooner rather than later.
For a look at the different stages of the Hoverbike project, including the recent flight tests, you can watch the video below.
Source: Malloy Aeronautics