Far removed from the world of sci-fi, with its high-speed chases on flying bikes, the hoverbike unveiled by the US Army a few days ago is a prototype designed to carry equipment rather than personnel.
The hoverbike, a British prototype, is the brainchild of the UK start-up Malloy Aeronautics, who showcased it on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2014. Thanks to the money it managed to get together, the British firm was able to get the Pentagon on board, signing an agreement with it for a first prototype in 2015, says Journaldugeek.com.
Watched by representatives of the United States Department of Defense (DoD), the prototype performed a successful demonstration flight at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, in the country’s north east, on 10 January.
That was only the beginning for the start-up, which was founded by New Zealander Chris Malloy and which is now set to continue its hoverbike collaboration with the DoD through Survice Engineering Co, a private Maryland-based company supplying the US Army.
Lightweight and economical
The Malloy Aeronautics hoverbike is made of Kevlar and carbon fibre, which makes it especially light and economical. Powered by twin rotors, it is, to all intents and purposes, a large drone and can fly at an altitude of nearly 3,000 metres and reach a top speed of 250kmh. Housed in a fan-like casing, the rotor blades are also well protected and pose no danger at all, unlike the blades of a helicopter.
Engineers are hopeful they can further enhance the hoverbike by replacing the existing electric propulsion system with a hybrid system, giving it a range of over 200km, and by giving it a more advanced navigation capability.
While the hoverbike is far from the first futuristic flying vehicle to be trialled by the US Army, with regular testing of such devices having taken place since the 1950s, it will be the first to become operational.
Speedy transport of supplies
Known as the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle (JTARV), its primary function will be to transport military supplies (both equipment and food) to troops in all theatres of operation. "It’s Amazon on the battlefield," said Tim Vong, associate chief of Army Research Laboratory’s Protection Division, describing the concept. The hoverbike provides an interesting alternative to helicopters, which have long been used for such tasks but which have proved too unwieldy, unstable and costly in carrying them out and cannot fly in wooded areas owing to the size of their rotor blades.
Though the intermediate prototype presented here is not yet capable of doing so, in its final version the JTARV should be able to get more than 350kg of supplies to soldiers in less than half an hour, travelling at a speed of 200kmh. To be deployed in the near future, the JTARV will give US troops a considerable advantage and can also be used as a tactical reconnaissance vehicle.
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