The US Army is happy with progress on its Australian-bred hoverbike.
Australian inventor Chris Malloy’s dream of humans riding hoverbikes is a little bit further down the path to becoming a reality.
It’s got a name – JTARV, or joint tactical aerial resupply vehicle. And if that sounds like something only the military could come up with, it’s because the US Army has one.
Last week, US Department of Defense officials visited the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Maryland for a briefing on what the hoverbike is currently capable of.
They didn’t see it speeding through the forest with a human at the controls. Everything was properly controlled with nets and no human lives at risk:
But some new details emerged about how the US Army saw Malloy’s hoverbike being deployed, and perhaps sooner than expected.
Dr William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office, said it was imperative to get the JTARV into the field “in a way that allows us to keep one-upping it”.
To that end, the DoD sees the hoverbike first as a potential transport vehicle for non-human payloads.
It can currently carry up to 135kg, making it an extra option for quick resupply runs over short distances at speeds of up to 100km/h.
While the project started in Malloy’s back yard in North Ryde, Sydney, it’s now a joint effort with Malloy Aeronautics, the SURVICE Engineering Company, the US Marine Corp, and the Army Research Development and Engineering Centre in New Jersey.
Tim Vong, associate chief of the ARL, said he felt the visit was a “great success”. He told NewAtlas the team wants to increase the JTARV’s payload capacity to 360kg and extend its range to 200km.
Malloy first unveiled his project back in 2011, and told the SMH he had wasted a lot of time fending off critics who said it wasn’t possible, or the images were Photoshopped.
In 2014, he raised $100,000 on Kickstarter to further develop the project. And last year, footage emerged of a human-shaped object riding the hoverbike:
“I’ve always been one to look at designs and see how I can make them better,” he said. “And when I got my helicopter licence I realised that the helicopter as a design has a lot of improvements that need to be made, and one of them is safety and reliability.”
A year later, Malloy signed the deal with ARL to develop the hoverbike for the US DoD.
It’s been an agonisingly long wait. But with the DoD seemingly keen to get it into the field as soon as possible, and pushing for progress, Malloy is close to clearing an important hurdle.
Here’s the full video of the DoD’s visit to hoverbike HQ: