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One-Person Flying Vehicles Close to Reality

  • George Putic

Smart phones, essentially pocket-sized computers, we already have. Flying drones with cameras are available to everybody. Robots and self-driving cars are just around the corner. Now, two groups of inventors say very soon we will be able to try flying platforms and flying bikes.

Being able to fly around as simply as riding a bicycle has been a long-standing dream of many inventors. But the safety and stability of such vehicles was always a huge problem.

As relevant technologies, such as quadcopters and high-capacity batteries, have developed within the past decade, the dream of personal flying vehicles has moved closer to reality.

The British firm Malloy Aeronautics has demonstrated a prototype of its hoverbike that it says will be a truly personal flying platform.

“It's inexpensive, it can carry a decent load, it can get in and out of very small spaces very quickly, and it can be moved across continents very quickly because it can be folded and packed,” said Malloy Aeronautics’ marketing sales director, Grant Stapleton.

He said with safety as the primary concern, designers came up with an innovative idea of overlapping rotors, whose, so-called ‘adducted’ propellers are turning in enclosed spaces.

“With adducted rotors you immediately not only protect people and property if you were to bump into them, but if you ever were to bump into somebody or property, it's going to bring the aircraft out of the air,” said Stapleton.

The company is doing extensive testing with a one-third scale model, and also with a full scale tethered prototype.

Inventors say their Hoverbike will most likely be used first by the military, police and rescue squads.

Meanwhile, Martin Aircraft Company from New Zealand already is testing a full-scale prototype of its personal flying device called Jetpack that can fly for more than 30 minutes, up to 1,000 meters high, and reach speed of 74 kilometers per hour.

Martin CEO, Peter Coker, said, “This is built around safety from the start. Reliability is the most important element of it. We have safety built into the actual structure itself. Very similar to a Formula One racing car.”

Jetpack runs on a four-cylinder 200-horsepower gasoline engine producing two powerful jet streams. Coker said it also has a built-in parachute.

“It opens at very low altitude and actually saves both the aircraft and the pilot in an emergency," he said.

Coker said Jetpack will be ready for the market by the end of 2016, with a price of about $200,000.

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