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.