The Army Research Laboratory signed a contract nine months ago with SURVICE Engineering and Malloy Aeronautics to develop a hoverbike prototype for the Army to test in three to five years. SURVICE is based in Maryland and Malloy is based in Britain.
The two companies will first develop a commercial version of the hoverbike that can carry about 250 pounds and cost about $80,000 before the companies produce a military variant, said Mark Butkiewicz, SURVICE Engineering's manager of applied technology. He explained that the Army would like the bike to carry about 400 to 800 pounds to allow soldiers to pack their weapons and equipment on board.
The Army said the hoverbike doesn't necessarily need a soldier on board to steer as Timothy Vong, the project coordinator for the Army Research Laboratory, explained that the service wants the companies to develop manned and unmanned capabilities.
Butkiewicz compared the commercial and the military variants of the hoverbike to the differences between the Humvee and its commercial version, the Hummer. He didn't want to give many more details of the requirements and details of the contract signed with the Army.
Vong said in an email to Military.com that the Army's investment remains small in the project, but it could grow quickly if Malloy and SURVICE can continue to prove the technology. The Army is still in the initial research and development phase of the contract.
The hoverbike could potentially go faster and higher but the Army wants to make sure its safe for soldiers to ride and not drifting into a helicopter's mission set. Butkiewicz said to think of the project in someways like a horse.
"If you fall off a horse you can get up and keep going. You can't do that with a helicopter. That's what we're talking about here. Keeping it at about 10 feet off the ground, which in some ways is tougher to do," Butkiewicz said.
-- Michael Hoffman can be reached at Mike.Hoffman@military.com