Aero-X lets you pretend to hoverbike through the forests of Endor
Two years ago, a company by the name of Aerofex fulfilled the dream of every man and woman’s inner child by announcing the Aero-X, the world’s first consumer-centric hoverbike! Unbound by the laws of copyediting, the previous statement would contain at least twenty exclamation marks, because there’s no other way of conveying the massive excitement for such a device installs using mere words on a page. Aero-X is half quadcopter, half motorcycle, and all innovation. filing nine patents en route toward achieving a motorized experience unlike any helicopter or airplane. And now, Aerofex has just unveiled plans to start selling the first commercial model in 2017 for $85,000.
Aero-X drives like a motorcycle with the elevation of a hovercraft, accelerating to speeds of up to 72 kilometers per hours at 3.7 meters off the ground. The vehicle can carry two passengers on any open terrain for one hour and fifteen minutes on a full tank of gas. Overcoming the stability and control issues inherent in past hoverbikes was a direct result of engineering craftiness, drawing from the expertise of Aerofax founder and aerospace engineer Mark DeRoche. “We’ve done a lot of work to learn how to remove the coupling effect,” De Roche explains. “That’s the key for someone who only has motorcycle experience to be able to get on it and feel comfortable right away.”
The coupling phenomenon alluded by Roche is most noticeable in helicopter flight; when a pilot pitches forward to move forward, the vehicle veers slightly to the left on account of the aerodynamics involved in the spinning rotors. Normally, pilots counteract this effect by adjusting the controls. Aero-X avoids this issue altogether by initiating the lateral dynamics and leaning that occurs when riding a motorcycle. As the rider shifts his or her bodyweight toward the left and right, a pair of “knee bars” detects the leaning direction; future prototypes will pass off the “knee bar” detection function to the handlebars for a more natural “tugging.” Additional stability and control is added from a shroud around the bottom of the front and back rotors.
Taking its cue from remote-controlled quadcopters, Aero-X incorporates an on-board computer with a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer to gauge the direction of the wind and automatically throttle back on the vehicle’s performance to avoid having the human rider soar too high or too fast. In the event of an imminent crash, a rollover bar protects the rider, however, Aerofax is experimenting with airbag integration to create an all-around safe vehicle before the unit goes on sale. “If we can’t make it safe, we won’t sell it,” De Roche says.
Performance restrictions courtesy of the computer serve a secondary purpose outside of safety: they ensure that users won’t have to deal with the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulation requiring a piloting license to operate any vehicle above an altitude of 3.7 meters. Roche says that riding Aero-X within the confines of private property should not create any legal issues, but he cautions against riding the vehicle in an urban area where it will undoubtedly be illegal.
Footage from an earlier prototype in 2012
Although Aero-X is aimed at the commercial sports-utility market, Roche believes that anyone who regularly uses an ATV – park rangers and U.S. border patrol agents – can benefit from its off-road capabilities. Users interested in pre-ordering the vehicle are invited to deposit $5,000 toward the final price.