US DoD Follows Galactic Empire’s Lead by Developing Its Own Speeder Bike

Everyone who has seen Star Wars: Return of the Jedi remembers the awe and exhilaration we felt watching Luke and Leia hop from speeder bike to speeder bike as they toss Imperial Scouts into trees during the Battle of Endor.

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As it turns out, Star Wars fans are not the only ones enamored of the Imperial 74-Z Speeder Bikes. The US Defense Department was so impressed that they have created a team to design their own Hoverbike.

MA Hoverbike third-scale drone Photos (3)

According to Reuters, it was announced last month that UK based engineering company Malloy Aeronautics, which specializes in beautifully designed and engineered commercially available drones, has teamed up with SURVICE, an American engineering company renowned for unparalleled services and technology solutions in support of National Defense and the U.S. Warfighter, to develop the Hoverbike for use by the US Military.

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Despite the obvious similarities between the Imperial 74-Z Speeder Bike and the Hoverbike, one of the largest distinctions between them is how each vehicle actually achieves lift. The Aratech Repulsor Company, which manufactured the 74-Z Speeder Bike, utilized a Repulsorlift Engine while Malloy Aeronautics employs adducted rotors to elevate the Hoverbike. The adducted rotors allow the Hoverbike to reach an altitude of 9,000 ft at a top speed of 115 MPH. The Hoverbike soars over the 74-Z Speeder Bike, which had an operational flight ceiling of only 82 ft. However, the 74-Z was equipped with a very powerful boost that gave it an impressive top speed of 310 MPH.

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It was exactly this combination of paltry flight ceiling and excessive speed that made the 74-Z Speeder Bike very dangerous to fly. Rebel pilots used to joke, “What’s the last thing to go through an Imperial scout trooper’s head when he hits a tree? His afterburner!”

On the other hand, preeminent among the advantages of the Hoverbike is safety. Grant Stapleton, marketing sales director for Malloy Aeronautics, explains, “With adducted rotors, you immediately, not only protect people and property if you were to bump into them, but if you ever were to bump into somebody or property, it’s [not] going to bring the aircraft out of the air.”

The Hoverbike’s unique design utilizes overlapping rotor blades to reduce weight and platform area as well as rotor guards to minimize rotor-strike. In addition to operating in transportation, reconnaissance and surveillance roles, the developers recognize the vehicle’s potential for search and rescue missions, first-responder emergency services, and cargo insertion into confined spaces.

Despite its similarity to the Star Wars Speeder Bike, the Hoverbike was conceived of by helicopter pilot Chris Malloy as an improvement on helicopter design. According to the Hoverbike website, “The Hoverbike has been designed from the very beginning to replace conventional helicopters such as the Robinson R22 in everyday one man operational areas like cattle mustering and survey, not just for the obvious fact that it is inefficient and dangerous to place complex conventional helicopters in such harsh working environments but also from a practical commercial position in which bringing to market a cheaper better product will not only take over the existing market but can open it up to far more new customers who before could not afford the upfront costs of a typical helicopter and the very expensive and often unlooked for mantainace costs.”

Chris Mallow sought financial support for the Hoverbike development on Kickstarter. The campaign closed in August 2014 with more than double its goal of £30,000. It is exciting to imagine where Hoverbike technology goes from here!