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Australian Inventor Tests Hoverbike Prototype


AUSTRALIA ~ (Gizmag.com) ~ Looking like something out of a Hollywood special effects department, an Australian man is preparing to market a dual-propeller driven Hoverbike flying motorcycle.

By day, inventor Chris Malloy works in the mechanical design of airborne and ground based hyperspectral sensors at an optical engineering company in Australia. But after hours and on weekends, Malloy has been hard at work in his garage designing and building the Hoverbike. He was inspired when his helicopter flying instructor compared a Robinson R22 light utility chopper to an airborne motorbike. Malloy disagreed, and that started him on the road to create something closer to the real thing.

The result is a contraption that seats a single pilot on a Kevlar-reinforced carbon fiber frame in between two horizontal rotating propellers, made of Tasmanian oak with a carbon fiber leading edge. Intead of the more complex swash plate rotor found on single-rotor helicopters, the Hoverbike employs the same flight principles as a dual-rotored CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The counter-rotating propellers cancel each others torque reaction, eliminating the need for a vertical tail rotor and increasing the efficiency of the flying vehicle. Flight control is performed using motorcycle-like handlebars; the right grip determines thrust and the left grip operates control vanes under the rotors to pitch the vehicle, sending it forward or backward. Turning is achieved by rotating the handlebars left or right, with an extra up-down axis for left-right side movement.

With safety an obvious concern, Malloy has plans to have the whole system controlled by gyroscopes and has partially tested the computer system required to run them, with override controls to prevent amateur pilots from tipping over. The current prototype doesn't feature autorotation, but Malloy says adding two explosive parachutes to the frame or having the rider wear one is a safer option. The prototype's propellers are largely oxposed, but production models will be covered in mesh to prevent objects from entering the blade area.

The machine weighs about 230 pounds and carries an 8-gallon fuel tank, which should give it a range of around 92 miles, with a cruising speed of 80 knots (92 mph). A secondary fuel tank with double the capacity would increase the range. In the US market the Hoverbike would be classified as an ultralight, which means it would not require a pilot's license to be flown. And while it sounds like a fun way to beat traffic snarls, Malloy said he actually designed the vehicle to be a workhorse. Possible applications include aerial cattle mustering, search and rescue, aerial survey, film, power line inspection and military and emergency service. Malloy hopes to get the Hoverbike into limited production within a year, with full-scale production possible in another two years after that. He anticipates a run of 100 units per year could be initially priced at around $40,000, with the price coming down to around that of a performance motorcycle if he's able to ramp up production to 1,000 units per year.

To help generate investor interest Malloy plans to conduct flight testing in a couple of months. He has already conducted ground testing with the machine firmly strapped to the ground, so the next stage of testing will be with the first time the Hoverbike has ever been flown untethered. Malloy says he'd also be happy to hear from any engineers with experience in computational fluid dynamics willing to volunteer their expertise to help model changes in the design and cut down on the amount of empirical testing. Anyone interested can contact Malloy at www.hover-bike.com

Photo credit: Gizmag.com

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