If the notion of flying through the air appeals then hang-gliding might be your first thought. But if your fear of heights keeps you closer to the ground then perhaps Dr Carsten Mehring's StreetFlyer may be of interest. The human-powered three-wheeler suspends its user from an arched frame so that when enough momentum is generated, the legs can be lifted off the ground and you're away – at a cruising altitude of just a few feet.

Dr Mehring, inventor of the Exoride foldable urban one-man transporter, says that he had the basic idea for a vehicle with a light-weight body providing lift a couple of years ago. About a year later, the concept was refined into the StreetFlyer design where a lightweight, collapsible and retractable frame supports a user suspended from a harness.

Unlike the two-wheeled GlideCycle, when enough momentum is achieved by the user running along, the legs are lifted and positioned on the footrests near the rear wheel and the user gets "the sensation of flying without actually taking off the ground."

He got in touch with the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado where he used to teach with a view to turning the concept into reality and the idea was picked up as a senior design project by the Mechanical Engineering Department. A team of students rose to the task and, after making a PVC-pipe mock-up, created the StreetFlyer prototype you see here. This version, where the user is suspended some three feet from the ground, is meant to be used for flat or downhill travel only.

Dr Mehring told us that he plans to work on a subsequent version which will benefit from a lighter frame and include electric motors. He sees this StreetFlyer's frame being light enough to be folded onto a user's back and will cater for a smooth transition from a running motion to "flying". It is also planned to move away from the bicycle-inspired steering approach of the current prototype to a mechanism closer to that used in hang-gliding.

In addition to being used for recreation, Dr Mehring told Gizmag that the StreetFlyer could also be useful for physical therapy, with a patient strapped in and able to move around while regaining muscle strength in the lower limbs.

Although Dr Mehring is hopeful that a commercially-available version of the StreetFlyer will be made in the future, he is not in a position to provide the necessary investment.

"Accordingly, I am hoping to attract investors or companies which are already in the business of manufacturing recreational vehicles such as bicycles, skateboards, scooters, etc.," he said.

Below is a video slide show of the design and manufacture process:

View gallery - 6 images