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.
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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.