back to article Actual real-life hoverbike makes US debut at Detroit Auto Show

In a galaxy not so far, far away – this one, actually – a Japanese startup demonstrated its $777,000 "hoverbike" at the Detroit Auto Show. The concept is best known as the transport of choice for hapless stormtroopers chasing down rebel scum on the forest moon of Endor in a scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. It's a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm impressed they managed to make one that looks even less safe than Colin Furze's jury-rigged hoverbike. At least he put a wire mesh over the blades to stop you accidentally dropping anything in, or worse, sticking a limb in there!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      looks like no harness to keep em in the seat too, a quick jerk and some free burger meat for cannibals

      1. boblongii

        "looks like no harness to keep em in the seat too, a quick jerk and some free burger meat for cannibals"

        Well, you should be doing things like while in control of an aircraft; you really need two hands on the controls.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          What happens when it rains?

          1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

            (shrug) You get wet?

          2. Muscleguy

            Maybe you get four showers of water up from each rotor? Why cycles have mudguards.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Showers UP?

              Do you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how rotors work?

              1. ICL1900-G3

                Never spoil a joke for the sake of the truth. It makes you look silly.

  2. WolfFan Silver badge

    Well, I’m impressed… not

    So it goes 80-100 kph, or not very fast. It has a range of 40 km, or half an hour. It weighs 300 kilos and can carry 100 more… hm. I weigh 110 kilos. I suspect that range and/or speed might be reduced. Assuming that it still works. And it has, ahem, Slicing Dicing Spinning Blades of Doom right where people can put things like legs and feet.

    I’ll pass.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

      Payload 100kg, and they are trying to sell it to rich Americans ?

      It doesn't even have guns, or cupholders

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

        Those cost extra and are a dealer installed option. A factory option was considered, but no to American firearm enthusiasts can ever agree on the best gun for any given job.

        There is never quite enough Dakka.

        1. swm

          Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

          Actually, they rent the cup holders etc.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

        "It doesn't even have guns, or cupholders"

        I can 3D print those. I want mounting points for an oil sprayer and spikes I can deploy if somebody is following me. A smoke generator could come in handy too. Given the price, all of that should be included.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

      Well, it looks safer to me than a jet suit made by "Gravity". I saw what looked like a flame-out of one of the mini gas turbines on one of their suits a few years ago.

      Fortunately for the pilot, it happened over water at Bournemouth air show as he was coming in to the beach, rather than over land (could have happened at the Farnborough Air show where they also did a flight, and he'd have broken at least one leg.)

      1. WolfFan Silver badge

        Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

        If the payload was 200 kilos, users could rig their own safety mesh above the blades. If the range was 400 km instead of 40, it would actually be useful. As it is, it costs almost $1 million, has a pathetic max range and a worse payload. Only an idiot would buy one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

          100kg? Controlled by remote?

          Skips over desert, marshes, rivers and walls.

          Notice the black paint job and lack of lights.

          I can see a market for this.

          1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

            Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

            Skips over dessert. It doesn't have the range to cross a desert or load capacity for desserts.

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

              You have to skip over desserts to use it, or you will eventually top the weight limit.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

            "I can see a market for this."

            I expect it will be just like the "stealth" aircraft that can be heard for miles and miles around. I was running errands in my car once and there was a sound that seemed to me to be the world coming to an end. I pulled over and looked up to see an F-117 setting up for a flyby of a stadium. Not too subtle. The B-2 is rather loud too.

            1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

              Well, yeah, it's a rather large fighter jet. It's not going to sneak up on ground troops as that's not its job. On radar the F117 looks no larger than an unladen European swallow.

              If you want to have a rather large aircraft sneak up on you, look no further than the A10 Warthog which can do just that. I watched one at a gunnery range while in the military. It was flying in lazy circles about a thousand feet up and you couldn't hear a thing. It was moving so slowly it looked almost like a hovering helicopter. Then it straightened up its flight, about 10 acres of land evaporated, then you hear a deep BUUURP! from the plane's direction, and that's the only sound you ever hear from the plane. Downright scary to see from the next range over.

          3. Muscleguy

            Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

            Yes, just realised I don’t need no cycle path. The burn leads right to my work. I get to the burn I get to work. Might have to duck under or lift over the road bridges but hey a minor detail.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Long range delusions abound these days.

          Sure this thing is silly, and much like actual motorcycles, range is limited. It's gas powered. Refuel and get on with your life. Seems like someone always has to chime in that anything less than 2.5-10x what exists is useless.

          How many people that would buy this are flying across the channel on a daily basis currently? Oh yeah, nobody. This profile of aircraft is either for fun or for very short haul flights. If you need to be able to fly to a different time zone, fly this to an airport and change planes. If you can afford it and legally can operate it you probably are rated to fly a Sesna and might own one already.

          This class of scaled up quadcopter are really more likely to end up as courier shuttles or short haul air-taxi service instead of a full size helicopter, when they aren't just toys. 100kph feels a lot faster outside a cabin.

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: Long range delusions abound these days.

            > ... when they aren't just toys

            This will just be a toy, for fun, if you can afford it. Nowt wrong with that, in this capitalist world, is there.

            You might even get one or two being run, for a short time until the novelty wears off, as an eye-catching courier service: cheaper than some other forms of advertising.

            Oh, and it will appear in the next-but-one Bond film, probably only in the opening sequence.

          2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

            Re: Long range delusions abound these days.

            -- This profile of aircraft is either for fun or for very short haul flights. --

            Actually the profile of this "aircraft" is to enable a stupid IPO so the founders can walk off with a shitload of cash.

        3. BackToTheFuture

          Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

          "Only an idiot would buy one......."

          Hello - Mr Musk? Of course you can buy the company. Just sign this due-diligence waiver........

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

      The future is for the skinny. 100kg is more than enough for little old me and some cargo.

      It might have a low range and not great speed but if I was rich I'd buy one to lord it over my peasants.

      1. Muscleguy

        Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

        I am 90kg in my shoes. So 10kg max for my work bag it’s a go for me.

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Well, I’m impressed… not

      And it has, ahem, Slicing Dicing Spinning Blades of Doom right where people can put things like legs and feet.

      I think there are a few more potential snags, many shared with more traditional hovercraft. Like boring old physics stuff like momentum and inertia. So ya want to make a left or right turn, and it all goes a bit sideways. Or you catch a corner of your hoverbike on something, and do a passable impression of an air hockey puck.

      And if you happen to be tailgating a Tesla that finally recognises a police car, fire truck or motorbike and slams on it's anchors.. You may discovery a few issues with performing an emergency stop. Or maybe it'll have a 'Turbo' button to go vertical, in which case it'd need to clear a typical semi trailer, and ideally one that isn't stuck under a bridge.

  3. muddysteve

    According to Electric VTOL News

    Linked to in the article:

    "The company's plan is to follow Tesla, sell to effluent customers first"

    Does that mean the product is sh*t?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They are following Moller/Rivian not Tesla

      This is like the 1 seat Moller flew to drum up money for the 4 seater that never made it past tethered hovering demonstrations.

      Expect disappointment if you are waiting for the MKII version anytime soon.

  4. boblongii
    Pint

    Translation

    Weighs 6cwt (3/10th of a ton), range of 25 miles (if you're lucky and/or slow), top speed about 60mph and if you're 16 stone or more in wet clothes (because there aint no canopy) don't apply.

    A very inefficient mode of transport albeit a cool-looking one.

    1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      Re: Translation

      No, it weighs 3/10 of a tonne.

      It weighs 3 1/64 of a ton.

      1. boblongii

        Re: Translation

        Only if you believe that every metric measurement given is perfectly precise and not rounded up to the nearest 10 or 100 or whatever. I doubt very much that this thing weighs exactly 300Kg.

    2. Cuddles

      Actual Translation

      It weighs 34.48 adult badgers, has a range of 1819.8 brontosauruses, top speed about 3% of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum, and can only carry 0.112 of a great white shark.

  5. Stork Silver badge

    What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

    Please see title

    1. Jim Mitchell
      Boffin

      Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

      Once your batteries get low, you set them on fire to extract the last ergs as thermal instead of electrical energy. Its genius!

    2. Oglethorpe

      Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

      The literature describes it as a petrol hybrid engine. I suspect from the photos they're using it to drive electric motors on each rotor to allow for quicker changes in power distribution (so it doesn't tip) and the battery allows a few seconds of graceful descent if the engine stalls.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

        An internal combustion engine has bands where it's the most efficient. If you use one to drive a generator, you chose the settings to get the best efficiency and run the fans from the battery.

        I was hoping to work on a firefighting drone aircraft that was going to use a hybrid set up. The guy planning to set up the company passed away. We worked on some preliminary outlines together with a few people to get a feel for scale. It would have been a really kick-A job and a nice change from rockets. Not that I do rockets anymore.

        1. the Jim bloke

          Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

          So how would you go about making a fire-fighting rocket?

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

            "So how would you go about making a fire-fighting rocket?"

            The rockets sorta of worked the opposite way. We started a couple of small fires with them. When landing, the concrete would spall and launch burning hot chips that set the dry brush on fire. The airport fire department didn't have lots to do so they rushed out and sprayed loads of water on the area even though we had already put the fire out. Everybody got to have fun. We had to bring out the tractor and really clear the site back much further than we had thought would do the trick the first time.

    3. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

      Aeris is a battery-operated electric drone quadcoptor company. They've built a big battery-operated remote-control quadcoptor and put a motorbike on top.

      From the demo, it's not even clear that you can operate it from the motorbike controls -- perhaps it's just a passenger position (maybe you hold the gameboy controller in your hands?). But since it's for sale already, that's probably unduly cynical.

      Anyway, the import point is that 'with batteries' means they are using their existing technology. The genset on top is just part of the payload.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

        There's probably a learning curve. You don't let some over-excited motoring journalist loose on your brand new flying prototype. It's not in his/her skill-set :-)

        Having said that, it is just a prototype and doesn't seem to have anything new or innovative in it.

    4. Psamathos

      Re: What is “internal combustion with batteries “?

      Don't you remember? Samsung tried that with the Galaxy Note 7, but then ended up recalling them all.

  6. RockBurner

    IIRC there's currently several companies touting hoverbikes around. The Iranian police were testing one a year or two ago.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Regardless of how much it costs or how much it can carry or how far. Can it avoid a $6K or less SAM missile?

    if not then its its a rich guys toy for the back garden.

  8. DS999 Silver badge

    How high can it get?

    i.e. does it rely on ground effects, or can it reach an arbitrary height?

    The former would mean it is pretty restricted in where it can go, as you wouldn't be able to cross a creek or wide ditch and even a steep hill would provide a barrier. The latter would mean you can go almost anywhere, over the treetops if necessary, which would make it useful for the 'search' part of search and rescue in remote wilderness (then guide in the helicopter to lift the victims to safety)

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: How high can it get?

      > useful for the 'search' part of search and rescue in remote wilderness

      But for that money, how many unmanned (visual and FIR) camera drones could you field? And of varying capability to cope with more kinds of wilderness (low-level fixed-wing drones with longer flight times for open-space wilderness, lots of small 'copters for zipping below the canopy for a forested wilderness, 'thopters for deserts of course).

  9. PRR Bronze badge

    There are several OK use-cases. Close-up inspection of hi-voltage power lines (already done by 'copter; this may be a buck cheaper). Also inspections of dams and ditches. Industrial roofing systems. A game-changer would be rapid response for border patrols (in places where borders "need patrolling"). I live near the desperate and vicious Canadians. The border-line is all clear-cut and covered by cameras. But if camera #47 shows monkey-business or goes blank, you have to send a man out. Altho clear-cut it's no expressway. Even a young man on a large dirt bike (motorcycle) is not as fast as an optimized model of this "hooverbike".

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      "hooverbike"

      Man, that just sucks.

      1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

        Re: "hooverbike"

        Sucks pigeons, seagulls, sparrows, fruitbats... I'd pay to watch it process any of those.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      It would need a significant optimisation to increase the carrying capacity and range to make it useful. On the other hand, the early[*] EV cars had a range of barely 40 miles, not a great deal further than this flying bike. On the other hand, what needs optimising is power generation/storage and electric motor efficiency and this bike is already using the very latest improvements that now give EV cars a 200+ mile range. No regenerative braking or other optimisation suitable for road vehicles.

  10. jumblist

    A key stat not mentioned that I'd love to know more about is how many dBs it generates.

    I bet it's loud as fuck.

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Loud as...

      Now you are just boasting.

  11. ChoHag Silver badge
    Coat

    [W]ho knew there was a dedicated publication for the vertical take-off and landing scene?

    Have I got news for you...

  12. Brian 3

    If you watch the video there you will see that this isn't drivable - it's a ridable remote control hexacopter. It's piloted by a guy standing in the background.

    1. PRR Bronze badge

      > it's a ridable remote control ...

      Because they are showing it off to typically un-trained journalists and millionaires. They don't want idiots smashing the prototype and making stains on the pavement.

      Obviously if you could afford it, if your check cleared, you could get control, even if only by lashing that joy-box to the handlebar. I doubt the motocycle analogy works best, a helicopter control set makes more sense, though today you could tell a computer where to go and it would figure the lift and bank actions for you.

  13. Grunchy Silver badge

    Murder-Death-Kill

    In the Star Wars movie their project was to kill all the hoverbike jockeys. Even though they never rode one before, they finished the project easily in just a couple minutes. None of the hoverbike armor was the least bit effective. To be fully accurate, everyone should have died!

  14. Norman Nescio Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Military use

    Could be an interesting way to get infantry across rivers, especially if it could operate autonomously to go back and get the next man / more ammunition / take casualties away.

    Obviously need to add ludicrous dB speakers playing Ride of the Valkyries.

  15. Muscleguy

    I can get to work very largely on cycle paths. Wtih some brief road crossings. Polis here in Scotland turn a blind eye to electric scooters despite them being illegal. I need to win the lottery so I can ride one to work. Which is a secondary school. The street cred I could earn . . .

  16. stuartnz

    Missing a little something?

    Quote:

    "you'd only be able to operate it on open fields, wetlands, lakes, deserts, and other such terrain where no one is going to get hurt."

    That should read "no one ELSE..." surely? :)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typo

    > where no one [else] is going to get hurt.

  18. Cmdr Bugbear

    For a first draft, I'll give it a pass mark. Not yet ready for the mass market but I wouldn't turn one down.

    If you got this road registered, this would bring a new dimension to lane-splitting. Just crank on the juice and fly over the wheel-based vehicles in front of you.

    It would certainly scare the shit out of unsuspecting motorists having one of these go over the top of your car...

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