Coming soon to dealerships across the Forest Moon
June 11, 2011 12:34 PM   Subscribe

The future has officially arrived. Would you believe a hoverbike? OK, if that one didn't impress you maybe this one will.
posted by scalefree (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
4 years in development? All they needed was a copy of Boy's Life and their dad's lawnmower.
posted by stavrogin at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2011 [11 favorites]

posted by The White Hat at 12:43 PM on June 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

First one's lame - - if I need hover action, I'd rather sit in the comfort of a traditional hovercraft.

Second one looks more interesting - - but unless it has some sort of gyro-stabilized gimbal connector between the two fans, I can't believe it would be stable enough for anyone but a radical stunt pilot with a quick opening low altitude parachute.
posted by fairmettle at 12:45 PM on June 11, 2011

The first one seems like it would be most fun for going crosscountry in low swampy areas, like a tiny fanboat-hovercraft.

The second one seems like it could fill an actual useful niche if stable enough (and having just come from browsing diy quadcopter sites I have no doubt it could be made stable enough). Though, regulated as an ultralight? I wonder how long that will last if they make it to commercial production…
posted by hattifattener at 12:46 PM on June 11, 2011

a "hoverbike" that hovers 2 inches above the ground like a standard hovercraft is about as disappointing as getting "blown" by one of those dyson no touch hand dryers
posted by nathancaswell at 12:48 PM on June 11, 2011

I ran across the first one looking for videos of the second one. I just put it in as a joke, to set the stage for the real thing which looks insanely awesome.
posted by scalefree at 12:49 PM on June 11, 2011

the design of the second one looks sweet but the fact that trained pilots crash harriers in VTOL constantly doesn't really bode well for its practicality
posted by nathancaswell at 12:51 PM on June 11, 2011

One step closer to jet moto.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:04 PM on June 11, 2011

do you reckon we could get a dyson air multiplier that's powerful enough to replace the blades on the second bike?
posted by doobiedoo at 1:06 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yep and the only picture of the second one is tightly tethered to the ground. It would seem like gyro control systems would be getting fast and smart enough for something like this to be possible. The stability is probably like balancing three very polished bowling balls on a sharp stick, so no matter how good the control system get's it's going to be iffy in some weather.
posted by sammyo at 1:06 PM on June 11, 2011

i mean i have no idea about how stuff flies, i just figured there's a fan, and there's a cooler fan
posted by doobiedoo at 1:07 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would it make more sense to build a big, scaled up quadrocopter?
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:10 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I actually think #1 would be fun. Just not very useful or revolutionary. It's just a tiny hovercraft.

The second one is like an updating of the De Lackner flying platform or the Airgeep. I agree, the enabling technology here is presumably cheap cybernetic control.
posted by hattifattener at 1:10 PM on June 11, 2011

The first one looks like a Segway, a fanboat, and a very small flying saucer from the fifties had a threeway in an empty telepod and someone kicked a lever over while they were in the throes of passion.

Will it work on water, though?
posted by adipocere at 1:11 PM on June 11, 2011

I love that in the very first shot it's pictured alongside a big tool box.
posted by LordSludge at 1:12 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was expecting it to be more like a Bensen Violator and less like a hovering Segway.
posted by Authorized User at 1:13 PM on June 11, 2011

Here's more about the second one.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:16 PM on June 11, 2011

Wow! I'm completely blown away!

I never would have thought in a million years that anyone could ever possibly manage to make the Segway any more obnoxious, let alone by such a huge margin.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on June 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

The second link is definitely where the "cool factor" is. Chances are electronic stability control could make it flyable, though I think one of the main challenges here is that small-scale quad-copters use electric motors (which have almost instantaneous speed control) whereas gas motors require more time to change speeds, making control much more challenging. Then again, this is a two-rotor design, not a quadrotor. The two props are counter-rotating, to even out torques, and I imagine the fans must gimbal for control, instead of adjusting fan speed ala quadrotor control theory. So it's a bit of a different beast. Either way, cool stuff!
posted by Alterscape at 1:22 PM on June 11, 2011

I had been thinking for awhile that if I had a lot more time and money than I do it might be fun to try to build a life-size tri- or quadcopter capable of lifting a human pilot. That should be fairly straightforward since the problem has been solved at a wide variety of smaller scales. It might require variable pitch blades to get quick enough control of the thrust, but this too is do-able.

As for the hoverbike, I can't wrap my mind around how it's supposed to be stabilized even by a computer controlled gimbaled mount. It seems like the kind of problem that might have been more profitably solved at model scale before building the full-sized version.
posted by localroger at 1:23 PM on June 11, 2011

Huh. BETTER than a jetpack. Except for all the eels.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 1:24 PM on June 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was going to note that it would be a lot safer to build and test a full-sized quadcopter since you could test fly it by remote control, like the smaller models, until it's proven.
posted by localroger at 1:26 PM on June 11, 2011

"Video coming soon." Yeah, right. And Duke Nukem'll be out any day now.
posted by crunchland at 1:31 PM on June 11, 2011

The thing about the second link.... it's full of flashy web page slickness but the thing is... there's no actual video of the machine actually flying which makes me think that this person's business model is heavily based upon that of the Moeller Flying Car
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:31 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

So the second link has no video, and 12/14 photos show it sitting in the grass around town and in the woods. At least we know what it looks like parked.
posted by l2p at 1:45 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless those blades have cyclic pitch control(so you an generate a roll moment) this thing will never be stable. And from the pictures it's a fixed pitch wooden prop. This thing is just an aesthetic design exercise.
posted by TheJoven at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

TheJoven, it says that the control is by thrust-vectoring vanes. Presumably this is because it's a gazillion times simpler than trying to add cyclic pitch. You should maybe read the text as well as looking at the pictures?
posted by hattifattener at 2:18 PM on June 11, 2011

Yeah, that second one looks more like a "please fund us" site. No vids and the only pics of the thing supposedly in-action show it tethered securely about a foot off the ground. I'm guessing they haven't worked-out that niggling little stability thing yet.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:48 PM on June 11, 2011

whereas gas motors require more time to change speeds

What about a hybrid, where the gas engine simply exists to generate power?

(I've wondered about this for awhile)
posted by jkaczor at 3:10 PM on June 11, 2011

I don't need one, and neither does anyone else. God. Boys.
posted by Decani at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

That'd work, jkaczor, but (I have not done the numbers) I think it gets harder as you scale it up— there's more rotor inertia.

Decani, sexist much?
posted by hattifattener at 3:18 PM on June 11, 2011

It's not a hoverbike 'till it's green and goes "woopwoopwoop" all the way to Triana Orpheus's house.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:45 PM on June 11, 2011

sorry, i was in a bit of a bad mood earlier. but i'll stand by it not having enough controls or control surfaces. you have to control roll, pitch, and yaw as well as vertical thrust just like a helicopter. you can get pitch control by controlling the existing vanes separately and yaw by controlling the fans relative speed to each other, though this couples with pitch since the rotors aren't coaxial. there doesn't appear to be anyway to control the roll of the vehicle aside from body english. roll control could be performed with some block off plates to limit the thrust out of a side of the ducts, but i don't see any evidence of that. vectoring the thrust left right would work well for strafing and yaw control but I don't think it would have much effect on roll because the vector is still pointing close to the center of mass. perhaps there is some effect with the ducts i'm unfamiliar with that keeps the oriented vertically, but I don't see how this would work without some addition control surfaces or cyclic pitch control. you don't need collective pitch, so that at least makes it a lot easier than having both.
posted by TheJoven at 3:54 PM on June 11, 2011

Fun stuff!

Back when we were kids, Bob Clem’s dad (who did all the cool stuff in the neighborhood), decided to build an Ice Boat. Basically it was a triangle frame about 10 feet long, pointed at the front and about 5 feet across in the back. At each point was mounted a blade (similar to an ice skating blade, but bigger) around which, an inch from the ground floated a ski. If the blade encountered snow deeper than an inch, the boat then rode on the ski instead.

All three blades were rigid, none of them turned.

At the very back was a tripod support about 4 feet high for a small gas engine (I have no idea where he pulled the engine from, but it just screamed!). The engine powered a full sized aircraft prop inside a wire cage, behind the prop was a rudder for steering. In front of the engine mount was a plastic bucket seat with a seat belt and hand controls for the engine and rudder. Basically it looked like a swamp boat with a frame and skates instead of a hull.

Mr. Clem spent about three months building this, starting in the summer. He had a full shop to fabricate metal parts, welding equipment, this stuff was his joy.

When the local lake finally had a solid ice cover, we loaded it onto a flat trailer and hauled it down to the beach and set it on the ice.

No clutch meant that the engine was started like an old crop duster by spinning the prop, it’s amazing we all ended the winter will both of our hands still attached.

There was a single peddle attached to a steel cable that operated two metal levers at the rear skates that dug into the ice as brakes.

The rider would sit in the seat, someone would pop the prop to start the engine.. a bit of a warm up and the brakes were released. Acceleration was a bit slow, but it would pick up speed at a pretty steady rate. We would head across the lake, quickly discovering that a sharp turn would lift one of the rear corners off the ice, stability was not its strongest asset.

That thing would just fly, the mile and a half to the end of the like went by in a flash, we would dig the levers into the ice, sending a spray of ice chips, slow down, turn around and head back...

Gas was about 15 cents a gallon and we had the greatest winter of our young lives!

That was the winter after we spent the summer riding his custom built go-carts on the banked dirt track on the back of his property....It was a couple of summers later when Mr. Clem decided to build a kite big enough to lift a 13 year old off the ground.

Eventually I suspect he would have built a hover-craft.
posted by tomswift at 5:52 PM on June 11, 2011 [10 favorites]

Not to repeat what's been said here, or to be a hater, but the propulsion technology for what we want these to be just doesn't exist yet.
posted by allelopath at 6:24 PM on June 11, 2011

After watching that first video, I'm looking forward to full-size human team air hockey.
posted by 4ster at 7:36 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

As TheJoven pointed out, the model in the photos has fixed pitch wooden props with a fairly small rotor diameter. This has three likely problems: very slow control response in changing thrust compared to a collective pitch propeller, very high disk loading since the effective area is so small leading to poor efficiency, and incredibly high noise. For most rotorcraft you want as large a disk as feasible, turning fairly slowly for efficiency, but there are always trade offs.

I'm also dubious about the roll control, although it does work ok in ducted fan vehicles since the vanes are a ways below the CG, giving them some amount of moment arm. Weight shifting could also work since the pilot probably accounts for half the GTOW. There are ultralight helicopters and gyros that use weight shift for both pitch and roll control, although in most of those designs the pilot is over 1 m below the rotor and has a much longer lever arm.
posted by autopilot at 7:41 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

nathancaswell writes "the design of the second one looks sweet but the fact that trained pilots crash harriers in VTOL constantly doesn't really bode well for its practicality"

Is that an inherent problem with ducted fan VTOL or a flaw/design constrain of the Harrier platform? IE: race cars crash at a much higher rate, however you want to measure it, than road cars in part because they are setup to be less stable than road cars which pretty well all exhibit heavy under steer from the factory. When things go pear shaped there is less margin to recover in.
posted by Mitheral at 8:05 PM on June 11, 2011

i was more thinking that if a trained up marine pilot can't keep a multi million dollar harrier stable with vectored thrust what hope does a nerd with a hoverbike have with what appears to be far less sophisticated control?

i mean, the osprey wasn't exactly a smashing success either
posted by nathancaswell at 8:26 PM on June 11, 2011

I'm looking forward to full-size human team air hockey.

What you want are shovercraft!

nathancaswell, that's still not a good argument; by the same token, if a trained race car driver can't keep their car on the track, what chance has granny to drive to the supermarket?
posted by hattifattener at 9:06 PM on June 11, 2011

but the propulsion technology for what we want these to be just doesn't exist yet.

What about nuclear? Wait, don't answer, the popcorn's not done yet...

You know that's what you love about us, Decani. I mean, if you love us, that is.

posted by From Bklyn at 3:08 AM on June 12, 2011

by the same token, if a trained race car driver can't keep their car on the track, what chance has granny to drive to the supermarket?

Never having flown a Harrier or a hoverbike, I don't know for certain but I would imagine that both are difficult to control.

Seems to me your analogy should read more like "If a trained race car driver can't keep their F1 car on the track, what chance does granny have in a Pagani Zonda?"
posted by nathancaswell at 6:19 AM on June 12, 2011

Second link looks more like a 'shopped mockup than a real vehicle.
posted by ryanrs at 8:00 AM on June 12, 2011

From the first link: "The most exhilarating gadget ever built!"

A hovercraft. Where you have to stand up, and wear a helmet. Yay.

Enough hype to qualify as Pepsi Blue?
posted by IAmBroom at 3:22 PM on June 12, 2011

Unfortunately, this will render hoverbike #1 useless.
posted by secondhand pho at 6:11 PM on June 12, 2011

Video or no go.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:30 AM on June 13, 2011

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