Hover bike lets you drive like a Jedi.


A resurrected hover vehicle won’t 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.

Aerofex hover vehicle

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.

“Think of it as lowering the threshold of flight, down to the domain of ATV‘s (all-terrain vehicles),” said Mark De Roche, an aerospace engineer and founder of Aerofex.

Aerofex test drive

Such intuitive controls could allow physicians to fly future versions of the vehicle to visit rural patients in places without roads, or enable border patrol officers to go about their duties without pilot training. All of it happens mechanically without the need for electronics, let alone complicated artificial intelligence or flight software. [Video: Hover ‘Bike’ Flies on Pilot’s Intuition]

“It essentially captures the translations between the two in three axis (pitch, roll and yaw), and activates the aerodynamic controls required to counter the movement — which lines the vehicle back up with the pilot,” De Roche told InnovationNewsDaily. “Since [the pilot’s] balancing movements are instinctive and constant, it plays out quite effortlessly to him.”

But Aerofex does not plan to immediately develop and sell a manned version. Instead, the aerospace firm sees the aerial vehicle as a test platform for new unmanned drones — heavy-lift robotic workhorses that could use the same hover technology to work in agricultural fields, or swiftly deliver supplies to search-and-rescue teams in rough terrain.

Even the soldiers or Special Forces might use such hover drones 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.

Aerofex hover vehicle

Aerofex
The Aerofex hover vehicle undergoes flight tests in California’s Mojave Desert.

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.

“They are less efficient than a helicopter, which has the benefit of larger diameter rotors,” De Roche explained. “They do have unique performance advantages, though, as they have demonstrated flight within trees, close to walls and under bridges.”

Aerofex has currently limited human flight testing to a height of 15 feet and speeds of about 30 mph, but more out of caution rather than because of any technological limits. Older versions of the hover vehicles could fly about as fast as helicopters, De Roche said.

Flight testing in California’s Mojave Desert led to the presentation of a technical paper regarding Aerofex’s achievements at the Future Vertical Lift Conference in January 2012. The company plans to fly a second version of its vehicle in October, and also prepare an unmanned drone version for flight testing by the end of 2013.

Virgin Galactic’s Record-Breaking SpaceShipTwo Test Flight Sets Stage for Passenger Trips By 2014.


Virgin Galactic‘s private spaceship flew higher and faster than it ever had before on Thursday (Sept. 5), giving company officials confidence that the vehicle is on track to start carrying passengers on suborbital jaunts next year.

spaceshiptwo-second-powered-flight-test

In its second-ever rocket-powered test flight, which took off Thursday morning from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo reached a maximum altitude of 65,000 feet (19,800 meters) and a top speed of Mach 1.6, or 1.6 times the speed of sound (which is about 761 mph, or 1,225 km/h, at sea level).

virgin-galactic-space-ship-two-121009d

The six-passenger space plane got up to 56,000 feet (17,000 m) and Mach 1.2 during its only previous powered flight, which occurred on April 29. SpaceShipTwo’s engine burned for 16 seconds during that first test, compared to 20 seconds on Thursday, Virgin Galactic officials said.

See the pics. URL: http://www.space.com/22662-virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-second-powered-flight-photos.html

Source: http://www.space.com

X-38 Prototype Lands on Rogers Dry Lakebed.


x38-prototype-lands-rogers

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, the X-38, a research vehicle built to help develop technology for an emergency Crew Return Vehicle from the International Space Station, is seen just before touchdown on a lakebed near the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards California, at the end of a March 2000 test flight.

The X-38 Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) research project is designed to develop the technology for a prototype emergency crew return vehicle, or lifeboat, for the International Space Station.

Source: space.com