Update March 29,2022: The company tested the flying motorbike in front of a live audience in Japan. You can watch footage of the trial below.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi futuristic movies such as Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars, you’re already familiar with hoverbikes, or simply flying bikes.
Well, seeing hoverbikes in movies presenting futuristic and semi-human societies is normal, I guess. But seeing them in real life can be mind-blowing, super weird, what-the-fuck — you name it.
So, I was extremely surprised when Japanese startup A.L.I. Technologies unveiled its Xturismo hoverbike last November at a race track near Tokyo.
And since an image (or video in this case) speaks a thousand words, take a look yourself below:
The hoverbike shakily flew a few meters off the ground for a little over a minute — which wasn’t so impressive.
On March 29, however, the company made a much more stirring demonstration, testing it in front of thousands at Sapporo Dome in Japan before a Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters game.
This time the bike managed to fly more steadily, going up significantly higher. Check it out below:
So, how does it work?
Basically, the Xturismo is what happens when you place a motorcycle on top of a drone platform. And this makes it an VTOL, meaning a vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
The hoverbike is also a hybrid, getting its power from a conventional engine and four electric motors. It’s capable of flying thanks to a set of propellers: two primary ones (where the wheels would have been) and four secondary propellers at each corner, which act as stabilizers.
The Xturismo qualifies as an ultralight aircraft, which means that you don’t need to be a certified pilot to fly it.
The beginning of urban air mobility?
Well, I wouldn’t say so. But we might well be witnessing the seeds of a future (far, far-off future) model.
For starters, the Xturismo’s hardly offers a breathtaking performance. The driver (or should I say pilot? ) travels slowly for just a few minutes.
Nevertheless, the bike’s maximum speed is estimated to reach an ambitious 100km/h, with an expected flight time between 30 to 40 minutes.
That’s definitely great for an actual flying vehicle, but still not good enough to replace other modes of transportation. I mean, just imagine the range anxiety you would get if you had to stop every half hour?
And besides, it’s not even allowed on-road, raising the question of where you launch and land.
Is it road-legal?
Certainly not. Not in Japan or anywhere in the world for that matter.
There’s simply no regulatory framework regarding this kind of vehicles because, well, we don’t really have them yet. And of course, it’s difficult to imagine that unless all vehicles were flying, we could see a hoverbike casually “riding” above normal traffic.
For now (and for many many years to come), the Xturismo can only be used on private properties and race tracks.
You might think that owing a large property to fly the hoverbike or renting a race track every time you’d like to fly with your motorcycle is a costly matter. And you’d be totally right.
But the Xturismo comes with a $680,000 price tag, which means that the startup is clearly addressing customers who don’t have to worry about
going spending the extra mile.
What’s it good for?
The idea is that, once A.L.I. Technologies has sold and delivered the first Limited Edition 200 units, then it’d be able to offer a more affordable version.
In turn, this version could be used by rescue teams to reach locations otherwise inaccessible, according to the startup’s CEO.
As a matter of fact, the idea of a flying bike that can be used in emergency situations isn’t novel. In 2019, American company Jetpack Aviation announced the development of its military/commercial flying bike, the Speeder.
The Speeder is envisioned to offer emergency services in the military environment including the faster transportation of paramedics, patients, and supplies, especially in areas where it’d be inefficient to use a helicopter.
And for those of you who can’t wait to get your hands on a flying bike, the Speeder will come as a Recreational version too for personal travel. And it’s $300,000 cheaper in case you’re on a budget.
You can take a look at the video below:
Overall, my rough guess is that I’ll be long dead before flying bikes become commercial in real life, but at least I’m very excited that I’m alive to witness their preliminary testing.
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