July 26, 2003 Swapping internal combustion for turbine power, Allied Aerotechnics is developing a VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) motorcycle concept designed to access areas that are totally out of reach for any other type of vehicle.
The AirBike concept uses vectored thrust generated by a pair of contra-rotating ducted fans that can be configured to produce forward or backward movement in both vertical and level flight. The rider sits astride the engine and helps control pitch and roll by shifting body weight as when riding a motorcycle. Stability is achieved by positioning the outlet nozzles well above the vehicle's centre of gravity. Instrumentation will include radar, G.P.S. or beacon tracking displays as well as tachometer, fuel gauges, altitude and air/surface speed indicators.
Plans for a production model will incorporate running lights, head lights and search-lights mounted underneath. It will also include a ballistic parachute system for emergencies and eventually a second engine will be added for additional safety and extra grunt. The current design is intended for versatility rather than exceptionally high-speed use although the cruising speed will still be around 160kmh. At rest the AirBike sits on its chin, kicking back onto the flexible struts at the rear just before lift-off. The aim is to optimise the Airbike's controls for soft, precise touch-downs and eliminate the need for heavy shock absorbers in the landing gear.
Under development since 1984, the project produced a radio controlled test model in 1991 - which "met with a violent end" in attempting the transition from vertical to horizontal flight. A new R/C test vehicle is planned as an experimental platform for testing impeller and ducting configurations in order to find the optimum balance of performance and control.
The latest R/C test vehicle will also be used to promote the concept and may even be marketed in its own right.
After researching and sourcing components required for the construction of a full-scale prototype, Allied Aerotechnics believe that a working vehicle could be assembled from readily available components.
The power plant specifications have not yet been finalized, but it is expected to be similar to the Wankel type rotary engine used in the Moller Skycar.
Cheaper and more readily available gas turbine power plants are a viable option for the AirBike prototype, but because of high fuel consumption, noise-levels and heat, plus the fact that turbines are not known for their responsiveness, they are not seen as suitable for production models.
Another challenge that's beyond turbine units currently in production is the need to squeeze a 10 to 1 reduction gearbox capable of withstanding a 60,000 rpm input shaft speed into the small area available on the Airbike design.
Potential applications for the AirBike are numerous - from the obvious advantages of its small footprint and high-manoeuvrability in search patrols, remote medical emergencies and law enforcement, to the sheer fun of having your own flying bike to ride to work "as-the-crow-flies", or just cruise about on a Sunday afternoon.