Since Return of the Jedi, the concept of a hoverbike has been undeniably cool, but the flying machines may also have many practical advantages over standard helicopters—namely they’re cheaper, quieter and safer. And for some time now there has been speculation that they could be useful in search and rescue missions and first-responder emergency scenarios. This has piqued the interest of the U.S. Department of Defense, who have brought U.K. hoverbike pioneers Malloy Aeronautics to Maryland to develop Malloy’s high-flying, 173mph carbon fiber craft for the Army.
Less than a year ago, Malloy Aeronautics founder Chris Malloy ran a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of his hoverbike—at the time it was a bi-copter (two rotors), with a 1170cc engine that was capable of hovering at an altitude of 9,800 feet. Backers of the Kickstarter received a drone version of this bi-copter that can fly on a pre-designated path, automatically fly ‘home’ or be controlled manually. But even as that Kickstarer was going on, the company was at work on a more stable four-rotor version.
In Malloy’s new offices in Maryland, they’ll work with U.S. Department of Defense veteran R&D experts SURVICE to develop that four rotor hoverbike as a new form of Tactical Reconnaissance Vehicle (TRV). This vehicle could not only be used for search and rescue and first responder missions, but also, reports Reuters, for bringing cargo into confined spaces. The guarded rotors make it safer for use around people and buildings than helicopters, and its lightweight compact frame mean it can easily be transported and deployed.
The first challenge for Malloy and SURVICE will be to build a full-scale manned version of the hoverbike, and from there it will be developed for specific military applications.