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Flying bicycle gets off the ground in Prague

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June 14, 2013

The F-Bike takes flight in Prague

The F-Bike takes flight in Prague

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That iconic flying bike scene from the film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial has been relegated to the annals of pop culture science fiction for far too long now. Fortunately, three Czech companies with the support of France's Dassault Systemes have just conducted the first test flight of their own two-wheeled, airborne vehicle, dubbed the "F-Bike."

At a recent press conference in Prague, the remarkably noisy custom-built mountain bike took a remote-controlled flight around a large warehouse with a dummy in the driver's seat. A grand total of six horizontal rotors, drawing 47 kilowatts of power from on-board batteries, can be seen propelling the bike through the air in the video at the bottom of the page.

The demonstration does beg the question "Why a bike?". Once those big, knobby tires are lifted off the ground, aren't they rendered more or less moot?

According to the project website, the central concept was to create a flying vehicle that could easily be ridden to a more suitable takeoff site and then be capable of a 3 - 5 minute flight. In order to offset the extra weight added by all the rotors, they could be used to help propel the bike along the ground, besides allowing it to fly.

Weighing in at a meaty 85 kg (187 lb), the current design's maximum takeoff weight is only 170 kg (375 lb), meaning the full cargo of the bike must be no more than 85 kg to get off the ground.

As one member of the project team told Gizmag last year, the design for the F-Bike has evolved quite a bit since it began in 2011. Originally the team had set out to build an electric bike, but ultimately decided they had more grand ambitions.

Inspired by the likes of Jules Verne and Czech author Jaroslav Foglar rather than profit motives (at least for now), the three Czech companies – Duratec, Technodat and Evektor – have yet to set a date for a test flight with a human passenger, but plan to do so this summer. There's no serious talk about bringing a flying bike to market anytime soon.

Source: Designyourdreams.cz

About the Author
Eric Mack Eric Mack has been covering technology and the world since the late 1990s. As well as being a Gizmag regular, he currently contributes to CNET, NPR and other outlets.   All articles by Eric Mack
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14 Comments

I think that is neat. It might not be practical but still pretty cool; IMO.

BigGoofyGuy
16th June, 2013 @ 04:23 pm PDT

I pity the poor cops who will have to attend the inevitable crash sites and pick up the slices

nutcase
17th June, 2013 @ 07:39 am PDT

60KW?

that is about what a car engine has

also about 300 times what a person can output

also nasa etc has had these for years

question - what are the wheels even for?

no one would or could ride it as a bike, seems like they are just dead weight

wle

Larry English
17th June, 2013 @ 10:55 am PDT

This could be a lot lighter. Wheels are not necessary, motor is not necessary. It could be pedaled, like a bike, simpler mechanics.

Remember, pedaling blades is much easier than pedaling wheels with the friction and weight on them. 3, 12 speed gear shifts?

They know what we want; almost there.

Art Toegemann
17th June, 2013 @ 11:04 am PDT

That's nothing, British inventors have already designed and built a folding bike / paraglider combo and are now marketing it on kickstarter:

https://www.eta.co.uk/2013/06/17/paravelo-the-worlds-first-flying-bicycle/?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2feta.sgml1.co.uk%2fetalz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=13.6.17+newsletter&utm_term=Paravelo%3a+A+British+flying+bicycle+launched+today&utm_content=320

djk
17th June, 2013 @ 12:38 pm PDT

Cool! Lots of room for improvement, but good start!

ezeflyer
17th June, 2013 @ 02:40 pm PDT

@Art - This thing uses 47 Kilowatts, a fit human would be hard pressed to make 1 KW. So they won't be pedaling these things into the air, sorry.

warren52nz
17th June, 2013 @ 04:59 pm PDT

@Warren It is inefficient, it's heavy, it's wrong minded. Flight does not require 47 kw.

Art Toegemann
18th June, 2013 @ 03:15 am PDT

Hmmm, I wonder what happens when you take it outside and the wind blows...

corylylechase
18th June, 2013 @ 10:32 am PDT

@Art Toegemann "Flight does not require 47 kw."

Right in absolute terms, but not in the context of this article. If your aircraft happens to weigh 1KG, hovering flight only takes about 150 W for a helicopter. More for a Quadrotor.

But in context, with a human "rider" weighing at least 45KG, and a mountain bike weighing at least 10KG (for the lightest of mountain bikes) and assuming that the rest of the flying mechanism weighs nothing at all, we're up around 8kw. That's battery mass - zero. Motors, frames, propellers, and electronics mass - zero, and a person the mass of a pro jockey (or child) and a mountain bike the mass of the most expensive carbon and titanium bikes available.

If we humans could generate 8KW, we could easily fly with almost any mechanism, and pedal bicycles up hill at 50 mph into wind!

So, please point me at documents describing any heavier-than-air aerial system which can lift off the ground under its own power, and hover (in zero wind) which has figures significantly better than ~150W/Kilo of mass lifted?

Note we're not talking about _forward_ flight. That's been done with pedals already, and it's well-known that humans can't sustain more than a few hundred watts continuously, but that's enough to take off and fly in ground effect.

sleat
18th June, 2013 @ 10:52 am PDT

Silly, but then toys often are.

Slowburn
18th June, 2013 @ 12:01 pm PDT

@ corylylechase "Hmmm, I wonder what happens when you take it outside and the wind blows..."

Well, evidence would indicate that precisely the same thing as will happen with a $300 RC quadrotor or hexrotor. That is all this machine is. The mountain bike and dummy rider are a gimmick, "payload" if you will. Nobody expects to do any real mountain biking on a machine like this.

When "hovering" in wind, over a fixed spot on the ground, a multirotor aircraft is basically flying forward into wind at the wind speed. Recent advances in inexpensive autopilot technology mean that such a function can be handled by the onboard electronics. So if the device were in a "position hold" mode, using internal GPS, accelerometers, and compass as a reference, it would simply stay put over the ground.

Without such a system in place, a simpler multirotor in the hands of any reasonable RC pilot does the same thing.

But you make a good point, you sometimes have problems with very gusty conditions, as your aircraft is constantly transitioning between a high-power "hover" setting, and a lower-power "forward flight" setting. This, counter-intuitively, can cause the craft to bob up and down, rather than simply blowing away, as one might expect. If the wind is strong enough, of course it will blow away.

So, this machine is a very large, very expensive, RC toy. A clever collaboration between the marketing departments and the engineering departments to showcase the capabilities of these companies in a video that will make a good article. The financial motive is clear.

It's not any real sort of technological breakthrough. Some German amateurs have built a radio-controlled multirotor platform which can easily carry a human rider in the centre of it.

sleat
19th June, 2013 @ 09:55 am PDT

I agree with a lot of people below - the bike part is useless, they probably just wanted the title "Flying bike."

It does, however, closely resemble a concept for a personal military flying aircraft: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_fSvarQSvbd0/S1qKIAUQOvI/AAAAAAAAA7E/YJTKgx3sEKk/s400/the-ultra-light-mosquito-helicopter3.jpg

Remove the bike, fine tune it a bit, and you could have one heck of a fun toy for millionaires! (not meant to be sarcastic if it came across that way).

Richard J. Auchus
19th June, 2013 @ 10:28 am PDT

@ 47 Kw i imagine it is about out of juuce in those batteries by the time it "gets off the ground."

Walt Stawicki
27th June, 2013 @ 02:01 am PDT
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