Aerofex has redesigned hover vehicle technology so that it responds to a pilot’s natural sense of balance without the need for flight control software. It may not fly through dense forests as effortlessly as the “Star Wars” speeder bikes from “Return of the Jedi,” but its intuitive controls could someday allow anyone to fly it without pilot training.
The aerial vehicle resembles a science fiction flying bike with two ducted rotors instead of wheels, but originates from a design abandoned in the 1960s because of stability and rollover problems. Aerofex, a California-based firm, fixed the stability issue by creating a mechanical system — controlled by two control bars at knee-level — that allows the vehicle to respond to a human pilot’s leaning movements and natural sense of balance.
Aerofex sees the aerial vehicle as a test platform for new unmanned drones — to work in agricultural fields, or swiftly deliver supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain. Or, even to carry or deliver heavy supplies in the tight spaces between buildings in cities. U.S. Marines have already begun testing robotic helicopters to deliver supplies in Afghanistan for both soldiers or Special Forces. The hovering drones would not fly as efficiently as helicopters because of their shorter rotor blades, but their enclosed rotors have the advantage of a much smaller size and safety near humans. The latter seems plausible for its possible use than anything else.
“They do have unique performance advantages, though, as they have demonstrated flight within trees, close to walls and under bridges.” says Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex.
Aerofex plans to fly a second version of its vehicle in October, 2012, and also prepare an unmanned drone version for flight testing by the end of 2013.
Awesome! We can save the Ewoks through the dense forests after all! And, we do not have to steal one from the Empire to do so…