Take a wild ride on the Aero-x. Credit: Larry Bartholomew A sci-fi hover bike, akin to the flying forest speeders from Star Wars Return of the Jedi, is set to take off by 2017. The Aero-X, designed by Californian-based Aerofex Corporation, uses ducted rotors in a similar fashion to a helicopter but with far greater control. The aircraft, which costs $85,000 and can fly at 45 mph, will only hover to heights of 15 feet, so that a pilot’s license isn’t required. Chief technology Officer Mark De Roche tells Metro why we’ll all be riding into the future on a hovercraft.
Did you decide to design this after watching "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi"?
[Laughs] I hate to disappoint but I’ve only seen one of the Star Wars movies and it didn't influence the design.
In the James Bond movie “Die Another Day” hovercraft float over minefields. Are the military interested?
It’s not going to be used by the military at this stage. But the Aero-X can be used for ranching, crop dusting, and search and rescue.
Is it like riding a hovercraft or a motorcycle?
It’s probably closer to a motorcycle. You’re in a dynamic air environment. At first your eyes are fixed on the ground but when you get used to focusing on the horizon and adapt to the winds, you’re transported into a different element. You bank into a turn based on the wind like sailing – you get an intuitive sense about the wind.
If it’s like a motorcycle, does that mean you require a helmet?
I didn’t wear one for quite some time and the guys and I decided it was reckless. We were in the desert so I didn’t feel much need but it’s likely depending on the laws of a country whether a helmet will be required.
Will we eventually be able to use hovercraft for recreational purposes like quad bikes and go-karts?
Yes, our goal is to set up air parks where people can be trained in a scenic environment as the hovercraft doesn’t damage land in the same way that a car does. I would like to create an electric version to cut the cost and make them more accessible, so that they could be used in safari parks.