Hoverbikes are the stuff of literal science fiction. Perhaps best known for their role in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, hoverbikes are as imagined one-person transports that fly above the ground, great for carrying scouts but also terrible at avoiding trees. British firm Malloy Aeronautics built a quadcopter hoverbike that can carry a robot. Now, Malloy has joined with an American firm to develop the hoverbike for the Department of Defense.
Malloy’s hoverbike is closer in practice to a quadcopter than anything else. Two rotating blades in front and two in back provide lift and thrust, with controls and a seat in the middle for a pilot. Unlike the ill-fated hoverbikes of Star Wars, Malloy’s bike can fly above the trees, making it less like a very fast motorcycle and more like a very dainty helicopter scout. Malloy’s one-third scale version is remotely piloted, and it’s likely that any full-sized version will have the option of flying without a human onboard too, making it not just a hoverbike, but a drone that soldiers can ride.
To develop the bike in the United States, Malloy partnered with SURVICE, a Maryland-based defense contractor and engineering company. The partnership was announced last week at the Paris Air Show. As Reuters reported at the show, Mark Butkiewicz of SURVICE said:
Malloy’s hoverbike is designed for the U.S. Army. The idea immediately conjures to mind images of robotic cavalry, scouting ahead of mechanized armies. It’s also not the first time the Army’s looked for hovering scouts. Below, some of the previous attempts at Army hover scouts.
Kelsey D. Athertonis a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work on drones, lethal AI, and nuclear weapons has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.