Science fiction could soon become reality as the U.S. military moves to adopt state-of-the-art “hoverbikes” into its arsenal that resemble the single-seat aircraft Luke Skywalker zoomed through the Endor forest on in “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.” The specifics of the technology, funded by the Army Research Laboratory, are unknown, but images and video of the first hoverbike prototype show the vehicle has four helicopter-like propellers that keep it airborne.
The hoverbike is the brainchild of Malloy Aeronautics, based in the U.K., and SURVICE Engineering in Belcamp, Maryland. The vehicles have been under development since 2009.
What the real-life version of the famous “Star Wars” aircraft might lack in flashy weaponry it makes up for in utility. The bikes could carry hundreds of pounds of cargo and could fly manned or unmanned up to 9,000 feet in the air, according to the Military Times.
"The Army is looking at using it … close to the ground. So we are looking at technology to make sure it's safe in that kind of environment," Mark Butkiewicz, manager of applied technology at Survice Engineering, told the Military Times. "In some cases, the lower altitude is more challenging because you have to make sure you can maneuver around objects and debris and buildings.”
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Its developers say its uses aren’t limited to the military. The hoverbikes could also be used in disaster zones to carry supplies to affected areas. “Doctors and paramedics could fly their hoverbikes into disaster zones, assess the casualties and damage in local villages and then send their vehicles back to base as a drone, so they can bring back food, water and medical supplies,” the spokesman explained.
The U.S. military is looking to start using the hoverbikes in three to five years. Watch video of the hoverbike via YouTube.