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Australian built Hoverbike prepares for takeoff

By

June 8, 2011

The Hoverbike prototype lifts off in a tethered flight test

The Hoverbike prototype lifts off in a tethered flight test

Image Gallery (12 images)

Adventurous motorcyclists might be familiar with the thrill of getting airborne at the top of a rise, but the Hoverbike is set to take catching some air to a whole new level. With a 1170 cc 4-stroke engine delivering 80 kW driving two ducted propellers, the inventor of the Hoverbike, Chris Malloy, says with its high thrust to weight ratio, the Hoverbike should be able to reach an estimated height of more than 10,000 feet and reach an indicated airspeed of 150 knots (278 km/h or 173 mph). At the moment these are only theoretical figures as the Hoverbike hasn't been put through its paces yet, but Malloy has constructed a prototype Hoverbike and plans to conduct real world flight tests in a couple of months.

By day, Malloy works in the mechanical design of airborne and ground based hyperspectral sensors at an optical engineering company in Australia. But after work and on weekends Malloy has spent the past two and a half years slaving away in his garage working on his Hoverbike. His efforts were prompted when his helicopter instructor likened a Robinson R22 light utility helicopter to an airborne motorbike. Disagreeing, Malloy set about building something closer to an actual flying motorbike.

The result is a prototype Hoverbike that seats a single pilot on a Kevlar reinforced carbon fiber with foam core frame in between two horizontal spinning propellers constructed from Tasmanian Oak with a carbon fiber leading edge. Instead of the complicated swash plate setup found in single rotor helicopters, the Hoverbike employs the same basic flying principles as a tandem-rotor Chinook helicopter. As with the Chinook, the counter-rotating rotors cancel out each other's torque reaction, eliminating the need for an anti-torque vertical tail rotor and increasing the efficiency of the vehicle.

The Hoverbike prototype

Control of the Hoverbike is done completely via the handlebars. Forward and reverse movement is controlled via the motorbike-like handlebar grips. The right grip increases the thrust, while the left grip controls the angle of the control vanes positioned under the rotors to pitch the nose of the Hoverbike down - for forward movement - or up - for moving backwards. Meanwhile, turning is achieved by turning the handlebars left and right, just like a motorbike but with an extra axis that lets them rotate up and down a little, which alters the angle of the front and rear control vanes.

With safety an obvious concern for airborne vehicles, Malloy says he has given as many components as possible triple redundancy and made the Hoverbike design as simple as possible. The current prototype doesn't feature adjustable pitch propellers so it cannot autorotate in the case of an engine failure, but Malloy says the ability to add two explosive parachutes to the Hoverbike's airfarme or have the rider wearing a parachute is a safer option.

Malloy also says he plans to have the whole system controlled by gyros and he has already designed and partially tested the circuits and code required. But he initially wants to fine-tune the controls mechanically first to ensure he produces the most stable design. Eventually however, he says there will be room for a computer override of sorts to stop amateur pilots tipping over. The propellers, which are currently largely exposed, will also be fully covered in a mesh to ensure limbs don't get too near the blades.

With dimensions of 3 m long by 1.3 m wide by 0.55 m high (9.8 x 4.3 x 1.8 ft), the Hoverbike weighs 105 kg (231 lb) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 270 kg 595 lb). Malloy claims the bike's 30 L primary fuel tank should provide a range of 148 km (92 miles) at a cruising speed of 80 kts (148 km/h or 92 mph), while the addition of secondary fuel tanks that double the fuel capacity will double the range.

The Hoverbike prototype

Malloy told Gizmag he expects his Hoverbike will have nearly the same abilities as a helicopter and it should outperform a two-blade aircraft such as a Robinson R22 acrobatically, however, due to the decreased rotor size its fuel consumption will be higher.

Although it sounds like it could be a lot of fun and would be a surefire way to beat traffic snarls, Malloy says he has designed the Hoverbike to be an airborne workhorse. Possible applications include aerial cattle mustering, search and rescue, aerial survey, film, power line inspection and military and emergency service.

In what should help with the obvious regulatory hurdles that will need to be crossed before it takes to the skies, in the U.S. the Hoverbike will be classed as an ultralite, which means that it will not require a pilot's license to be flown.

Malloy hopes to be able to get the Hoverbike into limited production within a year, with full production possible another two years after that. He anticipates a production run of at least 100 units a year would see the price of the vehicle at around US$40,000, with the price coming down to around that of a performance motorcycle if he's able to ramp up production to 1,000 units a year.

Hoverbike inventor Chris Malloy

Having invested much of his own time and money in getting the Hoverbike to its current prototype stage, Malloy says he is now looking for investors to enable him to push through the testing phase and get the vehicle into production - although he points out that any investment would need to see him retaining majority control of the company.

Malloy says he'd also be happy to hear from any engineers with experience in computational fluid dynamics willing to volunteer their expertise to help model changes in the design and cut down on the amount of empirical testing. Anyone interested can contact Malloy via the Hoverbike website.

To help generate interest in the hopes of attracting investors, Malloy plans to conduct flight tests in a couple of months. He has already conducted ground testing of the prototype with the bike remaining strapped to the ground, so the next stage of testing will be the first time the Hoverbike will actually fly untethered.

We'll bring you video of the flight tests once Chris has completed them. Until then we'll have to make do with the short video below on an airflow visualization smoke test.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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56 Comments

uhh looks a bit "tippy"

Mike Donovan
8th June, 2011 @ 11:45 pm PDT

Mike, my thots exactly. I would tend to want the primary mass (the rider) to be below the lift fans. There's just not much stability in the platform - pitch control is handled, but roll and yaw appear to be dicey. Three, or better, four ducts would bring it to the same control level as those little toy drone copters you see so many of on youtube these days. (Didn't they have a couple of them playing tennis just a while back?) Lets just say I hope he survives the pending flight tests...

Best of luck to him, tho - it sure would be awesome, and a long time in coming!

MzunguMkubwa
9th June, 2011 @ 05:20 am PDT

This this looks like a whole new level of hurt!

Denis Klanac
9th June, 2011 @ 05:56 am PDT

Tippy means acrobatic....

Sean Ellwood
9th June, 2011 @ 06:31 am PDT

Me wantz dat =^.^=

Nacho Lotitto
9th June, 2011 @ 06:50 am PDT

Not much different than the 50 year old Chrysler and Piasecki Air Jeeps. VZ-6 and VZ-8.

VoiceofReason
9th June, 2011 @ 07:23 am PDT

Where do I send my deposit? This thing looks cooler than ride than my Ducati.

Christopher Porozny
9th June, 2011 @ 07:49 am PDT

Looks like a machine designed for paralysing people.

I'd love a go on it though!

mommus
9th June, 2011 @ 07:49 am PDT

You wouldn't last a minute if you hit turbulance, I suggest he goes flying in an aeroplane first

kdpalmer
9th June, 2011 @ 07:54 am PDT

helicopters which hang under their lift blades are inherently unstable, they won't fly in a straight line all on their own; make a set of remotes for the controls and hang under it would be a better start but gyroscopic and uneven torque effects will play their part too. I salute the "tron" style design concept for sheer good looks but if this does turn turtle it will drive you into the ground faster than you can bail out, you would need to be strapped to it and tight!. double the fuel does not mean double the distance more like add one third due to the incredible weight gain. To go forward, the lift at the rear must be greater than the front therefore the resistance to rotating opposing it from the front one will be less; ergo, it will rotate in yaw as soon as you want to go forward. tilting the front and rear sideways a bit might help with this but this will vary with throttle settings when air drag increases as a square of the airspeed. the pilots workload gets very busy very quickly. the faster it goes forward the more it will dive too due to the lift created by the pilots back. A guaranteed way to leave the gene pool. talking of emergencies what happens if the engine dies? pilot does too? reserve chutes add weight too and accidental deployments kill just as many as they save, you also need altitude for a 'chute to work without rockets ( more weight). to stand any chance this would have to be a fly by wire device, The computer accelerometers and actuators will also add weight, would you trust your life to a laptop whilst trying to fly it? build a model and fly that or put a hovercraft skirt on it and then have serious fun.

rogerhamblin
9th June, 2011 @ 08:03 am PDT

I would lower the center of gravity too- but cool design. Hope he does well...

Robert Volk
9th June, 2011 @ 08:29 am PDT

No, no no! NO forward-looking technology allowed, especially if meant only for fun.

1. C02

2. Will these greedy capitalists give some to the poor for free?

3. How many polar bears will it kill per mile?

4. Is it recyclable? Can it be made from bamboo?

5. Can it be pedaled?

6. Is there no end to man's destruction of the environment?

7. Can it be painted green and renamed the Eco-HoverBike?

Todd Dunning
9th June, 2011 @ 09:53 am PDT

AT LAST...somebody is getting us off the ground...wanted somethinglike this ever since i saw the movie "the fifth element" ha ha.

I am a highly skilled and innovative master electronics technician, an inventor from a family of inventors. I wish to volunteer my skills and ability in return for a bike and some stock...

Shl

slonis888
9th June, 2011 @ 11:24 am PDT

"the Hoverbike employs the same basic flying principles as a tandem-rotor Chinook helicopter."

And the user will experience the same effects as riding on the outside of a Chinook Helicopter.

alcalde
9th June, 2011 @ 12:04 pm PDT

Reminds me of this thing from the 50's: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiller_VZ-1_Pawnee

Ben Chernicoff
9th June, 2011 @ 02:35 pm PDT

Beyond a few degrees of lean, its going to be tippy like a kayak but with gyro stabilizers, it should work. I would definitely go with adjustable pitch rotors, otherwise the computer will have to adjust speed at each end, and that will create dangerous control lag.

Muraculous
9th June, 2011 @ 03:47 pm PDT

First thing I thought of when I saw this thing was that Star Wars movie.

hjj
9th June, 2011 @ 06:05 pm PDT

You would definitely want a rocket deployable safety chute.

The problem with that is you still need some time aka altitude to deploy it .

If too close to the ground then you don't even have to to deploy.

You go SPLAT !!

I like it though and it is a really neat design.

My concerns are with the stability of the craft when flying it .

The next thing is going to be the NOISE generated from the engine AND the props beating the air.

Most municipalities have noise ordinances IF you plan on running it in areas where the noise is regulated .

Most noise ordinance limits are at 85 to 90 Db .

There are not many propeller driven craft that can operate that quietly.

Other than using it in the country (outside city limits) or basing it at an airport you really can't launch it anywhere else.

Over cities and such you have to obey the altitude limitations just like real pilots whether you have a license or not , ultralight plane or not , it doesn't make a difference in the eyes of those regulating airspace in your country.

I would like to see his design go further though.

He is only just getting started on a feasible design at this point.

With enough time and money it could probably work well.

Now about that liability insurance your company will be required to carry.....

Jim Andrews
9th June, 2011 @ 06:51 pm PDT

Hmmm yes it's obvious that this has some issues, like height, speed and gravity......

It's the height bit that could be a source of some serious issues.

Perhaps we could simply legislate against gravity by banning it or use Jesus Power.

Mr Stiffy
9th June, 2011 @ 08:29 pm PDT

Awsm idea...will be less hurtful if it is rode at motorcycle height...

how will it be propelled forward?

SumoDes
9th June, 2011 @ 09:36 pm PDT

AWESOME!! I want one. Flying at 148k/h just by tilting fowards seems a bit iffy - you'll be "pointing" more-or-less at the ground, and travelling head-first sideways. I wonder if it would be better to tile the rotors rather than the whole bike?

If he's reading this - find a bridge with a bungee tied to it, and get us some flight-testing video to drool over!!!

christopher
9th June, 2011 @ 10:16 pm PDT

Well it's nice to see I'm not the only one who saw stability issues with this machine. I'll add my vote to the four fan point stabilization. But as a rider I also have to add the rider position on this thing is all wrong for 150 mph winds. The rider needs to be closer to the bike and you absolutely need a wind screen to get the airstream over the rider. Other wise he'd have to be extremely muscular and would tire VERY quickly as the air tried to rip him off the bike.

Joel Joines
10th June, 2011 @ 02:58 am PDT

godlike this is a nice alternative for australians to a helicopter to cross long distances at high speed if it goes fast and if you mount abid fuel tank nice to is is the missing of the swashplate low costs and a perhaps easier control by moving your body to change the direction like on a bike but perhaps a rudder would be necessary

Dave da GearHead
10th June, 2011 @ 03:44 am PDT

I will take a conventional helicopter, over a ducted fan monstrosity, that doesn't give me higher speed.

Slowburn
10th June, 2011 @ 04:04 am PDT

Super sexy design. Definitely want one.

Chi Ken Sup
10th June, 2011 @ 05:08 am PDT

Watch out for Ewoks! I think that ultralites in the US are limited to 5 gallons of fuel or about 19 liters. I think this would show much more interest and profitability if he pursued it as a hover cycle instead of a replacement for a helicopter. 1,000 a year? Now that's a delusional dream.

Luddite
10th June, 2011 @ 07:30 am PDT

A lot of comment above forget: fighter jets are not inherently stable but the computer flies them. The advantages : can turn on a dime.

Reality: plenty of us trust computers with our lives now, in our anti lock brakes for instance or when we fly on an air bus. As long as he gets someone who knows what he is doing to look at the software. But yes, any investor needs to look carefully, but it could pay off very well, so do look.

Andrew Norris
10th June, 2011 @ 08:15 am PDT

I can definitely see some useful applications for filmmaking. As long as it's sturdy enough to mount a camera and some sort of shock absorber. Sound would be a bit of an issue, but there are some simple workarounds for that.

Matt Fugate
10th June, 2011 @ 02:19 pm PDT

I want one Big time, Love to rent & own,.

Add mini turbine shaft drive engine,

Neat for Sales & Rentals.

Add buddy seat & cargo Pod in rear.

or side mouints for cargom, surfboard, etc??

Neat.

OK Polaris (Victory Motorbikes) Build this.

Stephen N Russell
10th June, 2011 @ 05:57 pm PDT

Now harry potter quidditch can really be played. Just paint one up like a nimbus 2000 and there will be plenty of buyers.

ebastro
10th June, 2011 @ 07:22 pm PDT

For the people debating stability - you MUST look up the "inverted pendulum fallacy" or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pendulum_rocket_fallacy

Also, remember http://www.trekaero.com/ ? They still have not flown their man sized one out of ground effect.

Jay Kusnetz
11th June, 2011 @ 10:05 pm PDT

Hmmmmmm,

As mentioned: Stability Issues is a Major concern; AnyGyro system used will demand extra Power and slow response from Fixed pitch Rotors ; An alternative Variable Pitch system will enhance EDF response making Gyros easier functioning. Elevating Fan level near or above Rider (CG ) is a good idea for stability otherwise a lot of power will be lost to stabilize the rider .Safefy is a Major issue ; A tough light Carbon-Fiber Cage may Also be needed for rider /- Airbags. How to Stop (Breaks) in Air is an issue ..... Wind stabilization is an issue ; Thermal lifting is an issue ; The whole rotor disk rotating at the Front-Back axis is better than Vanes . II would love to see an RC model of this flying well first !

jaison Sibley
12th June, 2011 @ 03:12 am PDT

This thing wil be so noisy that it'll be banned from use in a city.

Stuart Halliday
12th June, 2011 @ 05:18 am PDT

This looks great! It's also a duplicate of my fathers patent, awarded in 1998. Except that my dad had additional louvres that turned and rotated for maneuvering. Also he had freewheel for when power was lost as well as other features however the design as shown is all the same as Vernes basics. These guys are doing a great job of getting this thing going. When V passed we let it go based on available time and financing.

http://www.google.com/patents/about/5738302_Airborne_vehicle.html?id=HkAcAAAAEBAJ

Heartslord
13th June, 2011 @ 08:14 am PDT

"The current prototype doesn't feature adjustable pitch propellers so it cannot autorotate in the case of an engine failure, but Malloy says the ability to add two explosive parachutes to the Hoverbike's airfarme or have the rider wearing a parachute is a safer option."

..

I wonder at what elevation Malloy expect these things to operate? High enough to auto-rotate or parachute from?

..

[Welcome to Lawsuitville, population, You]

dparks
13th June, 2011 @ 12:10 pm PDT

As a helicopter flight instructor with several hundred hours in Robinson R-22 and R-44s, I am always excited about new aircraft. I do see a few issues with this concept however. First, with the fixed-pitch propellers, how is he going to address the advancing/retreating blade issues in forward flight? Will the props flex to compensate for dissymmetry of lift? I do see issues with roll stability, thought the gyroscopic stability of the propellers will help, how about during pitch changes? I also wonder about the flight controls-- mainly the pitch control using left handlebar-- will there be enough mechanical advantage and precision? Has he calculated a height-velocity chart yet? I know in a R-22 at zero airspeed you need to be at 500 feet to safely land in an autorotation (yes, I know there will be no auto capability, but with ballistic recovery chutes there is a minimum altitude).

I do wish him luck and hope he has thought about these issues. In response to other comments, this looks to be a very quiet aircraft. Ducted propellers are much more quiet than non-ducted blades. Most of the sound of a helicopter comes from the retreating blade slapping the air as it completes it's downward movement and starts back up (like a whip) and from the blade tips nearing the speed of sound. In this concept, the blades do not appear to flap so no whipping, and the tip vortices are reduced or nearly eliminated by the shroud around the props.

chopperdanny13
13th June, 2011 @ 01:08 pm PDT

Looks fun, and I like the idea of Quiddich.

But there's going to be an awful lot of air going down through the fans. You'd want to make sure the rider, or any nearby birds, etc, weren't included in this airflow.

PeterRnz
13th June, 2011 @ 10:29 pm PDT

Here's a report of the 1958 version of this vehicle for sale on ebay- http://cgi.ebay.com/1960-Bensen-B-10-Prop-Copter-report-3-7-11-/260748736573 - from the text, it seemed to be stable, and I don't think there were very many computer controls on this 1958 model....

Scott Ness
14th June, 2011 @ 09:47 am PDT

@dparks doesn't the fact that the props are shrouded eliminate the effects of leading/trailing blades? since the props are not in the actual airstream, I would think that dissymetry of lift would be negligible.

Tito Riggatoni
14th June, 2011 @ 12:23 pm PDT

I've had some light aircraft experience and I've also ridden large motorcycles. This Hoverbike really has me interested, but I would like to see some add-ons like a balistic parachute and a fairing around the rider, for improved aerodynamics. It might also be an idea to incorporate flywheels into the Rotors, so that they keep spinning (auto-rotate) in the event of engine failure. But otherwise I admire the effort and thinking that's gone into this. A deluxe version could borrow some ideas from the Blackhawk and Apache, like auto-hover and auto-pilot.

Julian Siuksta
14th June, 2011 @ 07:23 pm PDT

RogerHX1

The "Hoverbike" was Invented 60 years ago.. It was called The (Bensen B-10 "Prop-Copter" 1958) http://www.aviastar.org/helicopters_eng/bensen_b-10.php

RogerHX1
16th June, 2011 @ 04:56 am PDT

Yes, the key phrase here being "adventurous." Or just plain nuts.

teeduke
16th June, 2011 @ 07:10 am PDT

I would love to see this with Rafael Morgado's engine installed. Smaller, more power, more fuel efficient and much LIGHTER. www.angellabsllc.com

oddssee
16th June, 2011 @ 11:05 am PDT

Dual counter-rotating blades (4 total) will be safer but add complexity. But at least if one counter-rotating set of blades fail, you have a second set to utilize. Also, engines are getting better all the time because of the high fuel prices. As a result, you may get a smaller/lighter engine that offers the same performance while increasing range. For added safety, a compact lightweight flywheel battery may give you enough power to land the cycle if the engines fail. As far as intake goes, directional intake shielding may help with manuverability and safety if they can be made lightweight, low friction and strong. I applaud you for just going in and starting somewhere, may good luck come to you.

GRich
18th June, 2011 @ 01:33 pm PDT

it is guys like this who discovered new countries, climbed unclimbable mountains. I am no expert on aircraft of any kind but this idea looks promising to me.I hope there is some well to do benefactor willing to invest in this neat bit of kit. Good luck to you Mr Malloy

robinyatesuk2003
19th June, 2011 @ 09:08 pm PDT

years ago i saw a similar design that used vanes to direct the thrust of the rotors instead of tilt. (increased stability) using those variable geometry spoilers like on race cars would help too. while it is possible to mitigate danger under certain "normal" circumstances, it cannot be eliminated. a motorcycle is still a death waiting to happen and this product increases that danger by a few dimensions. (ha) good luck getting it perfected. experimenting with balsa wood and carbon fibre first will help keep the costs down. there are many economical rc kits available that may help your design direction.

:)

.

Joe M. Wesson
20th June, 2011 @ 11:34 am PDT

Someone here wanted a turbine engine (= lots of fuel needed) and a cargo pod - then we're as heavy as a conventional aircraft, with FAA breathing down your neck. And landing will kick up so much dust that view will be totally lost! The torque of the two fans will only cancel out if they are loaded exactly the same, something that only occasionally will happen. In the model world hexacopters have proved to be very, very reliable, mostly due to the fact that power control is so much easier with electric motors. The fans need collective pitch control like a helicopter, or the lift will be very uneven in forward flight, with the blades moving forward creating much more lift than those receeding, just the thing that makes helicopter rotor heads complex. If each fan had two contra-rotating propellers problems would be far less, but still not simple! With four fans (with two rotors turning clock-wise, and two contra-clock-wise) the problems would be far smaller. Six are even better :-)!

Tord S Eriksson
21st June, 2011 @ 04:43 pm PDT

He'll die the first time he flies it. It will tip sideways once the ground is out of blast contact & turn over completely. Perhaps the lower centre of gravity, as proposed by another reader would fix this but I would think it needs a large U-shape dip to take the weight downwards & use large focus tubes that move slightly to each direction for steering & forward propulsion otherwise it ain't gonna go forwards either...

Rex Alfie Lee
1st July, 2011 @ 01:37 pm PDT

It needs a pair of rotors at each end for maximum stability.

phydeaux
18th July, 2011 @ 07:25 pm PDT

Aren't there some better(more stable designs)on the R/C market?

Griffin
28th July, 2011 @ 11:09 am PDT

Coming, close, almost there, someday.....etc

josephshawa
10th August, 2011 @ 09:41 am PDT

You can solve the stability issue with the right coding and an arduino! Then you'd probably want to make that triple redundant. As others have pointed out, a normal chopper is inherently unstable despite looking otherwise. Critical to the potential of devices like this one is the development of better performing safety chutes, airbags etc. The chutes need to be able to fully inflate to the point of providing full retardation within a second or so and there will need to be airbags to cushion the worst-case, just above the ground scenario. Other than that, the device appears to be worth developing further.

Hogey74
21st August, 2011 @ 11:50 pm PDT

Very good way for hurting your self. I prefere close canopy air veciles

Halit Özbaşlı
14th September, 2011 @ 01:59 pm PDT

Very cool vehicle!

I am very skeptical of the speed. There is a "momentum drag" term whenever you need to "accelerate air" to your forward speed. Given the amount of air being moved and the speed being reported, this seems optimistic.

If you have interest in a Personal Air Vehicle that is more conventional in nature, that does have great auto-rotational capabilities, good speed, payload and range, and is easy to fly and maintain, with a luxury car like price, I suggest you take a look at the Helodyne (www.Helodyne.com).

VTOL Qwerty
2nd February, 2012 @ 09:52 am PST

No one has mentioned the principle of the inherent instability of 2 bladed propellers, when their axis of rotation is translated in pitch or yaw. The variable gyroscopic or Coriolis forces WILL cause uncontrollable vibration under rapid change of axial direction, making this a certain death machine when untethered.

Use props with 3 or more blades to negate this phenomenon

Don Bill
22nd August, 2012 @ 10:08 am PDT

Directional stability inflight would be an issue. Some horizontal and vertical stabiliser would solve that.,also make them lift inducting and reduce the fuel consumption as well. Quad fans and a ballistic parachute I would be prepared to give it a go! Great effort so far. I respect people who are shepherds....not sheep.

Mark Jennings
27th November, 2012 @ 04:50 pm PST
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