When Skolkovo Foundation resident Hoversurf first unveiled its flying motorbikes at the Skolkovo Startup Village in 2016, some cynics dismissed it as a stunt: a cool idea, but not something that would be taking to the skies around us any time soon.
Now the company is accepting pre-orders for its futuristic vehicles, expected to be available in just two to six months. The Hoverbike S3 limited edition is priced at $150,000, plus a compulsory $10,000 flight training package in California that includes three days of training with a professional hoverbike pilot and a protective Hoversurf flight suit.
Hoversurf demonstrates its technology to the Dubai police. Video: Hoversurf.
One of the company’s first customers looks set to be the Dubai police, who have already shown keen interest in equipping their patrol officers with the flying bikes.
Hoversurf (Gruzovye Drony) travelled to Dubai in October to take part in GITEX, a major IT and electronics trade show, for the second year in a row. Having signed a memorandum of understanding with the Dubai police last year, this year, the company made a gift of one of its bikes to the police and conducted test flights in the United Arab Emirates capital.
“We left one bike in Dubai as a gift for them. Right now, they are training and learning how to control the bike – but they are not yet flying on it, because they need the right skills,” Denis Saitgareev, head industrial designer at Hoversurf, told Sk.ru in a recent interview at the company’s offices inside the Skolkovo Technopark.
Denis Saitgareev, head industrial designer at Hoversurf, pictured with version 3.2 at Skolkovo. Photo: Hoversurf.
The Hoversurf team is currently working on a new model of the bike – S3.3 – and will return to Dubai in the future to present the Dubai police with the upgrade, said Saitgareev.
On the other side of the world, the company has achieved another milestone: receiving approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), meaning people don’t need a pilot’s license or further vehicle certification to fly the hoverbike in approved designated areas there.
“This means that we can fly legally in the U.S. in certain areas, such as at aerodromes and in rural areas,” said Saitgareev.
In Russia, the flying motorcycles are already in use in remote testing areas where it is legal to test new aerial technology, he added.
On the current version, 3.2, both the propellers and the frame are made from carbon fibre. The hoverbike weighs in at 114 kg. Photo: Hoversurf.
Version 3.3, which is currently under development at the Skolkovo Technopark and is expected to be ready by February 2019, has several key differences from its predecessors. One of them is bound to be a relief for tech trend watchers who had greeted Hoversurf’s flying motorbikes with enthusiasm, but expressed concern over the proximity of the pilot’s legs to open, rotating propeller blades.
“The next model will have covered propellers,” said Saitgareev.
“Previous models didn’t have this, and a lot of comments were made about it. Technically, it was very difficult to introduce, as we didn’t have enough power at first: the protective shields add to the overall weight, reducing the flying time, plus we had overlapping propeller blades, which were hard to enclose. Now we have more power, so we have solved that problem and can include protective shields.”
Previous solutions to the propeller danger included using birch wood to build the propeller blades. The current propellers are made from carbon fibre, as is the bike frame. (Version 2 was made from aluminium).
The previous version (3), seen here flying over a Moscow racetrack, was made of aluminium. Photo: Hoversurf
Hoversurf has also traded in its previous lithium ion polymer batteries for lithium ion (Li-ion) ones that enable the bikes to fly for up to 40 minutes without a pilot on board, or up to 15-25 minutes carrying a pilot, depending on the flying conditions, said Saitgareev.
“We’ve significantly increased the flying time,” he said, adding that charging the bikes is just like charging an electric car: they are simply plugged in and left to charge, without the need to remove the battery.
While the team at the Skolkovo Technopark – where all of Hoversurf’s R&D, technology and prototyping is based, along with the company’s intellectual property – continues to work on the bikes, over at the company’s global office and headquarters in California, the team is working on another project: flying cars. There is interest from Dubai in investing in the two-seater flying cars, said Saitgareev.
The flying cars can both be programmed to fly to the required destination autonomously, like a driverless taxi, or piloted, he explained.
The first version unveiled to the public at the Skolkovo Startup Village in 2016 looked like this. Photo: Hoversurf.
Working from the Skolkovo Technopark has enabled Hoversurf to tap into the innovations ecosystem and use it to improve their product, said the designer.
“There are a lot of residents here who help us with our work: with 3D printing, design, and other supporting work,” he said.
Ivan Kosenkov, Hoversurf’s project manager within Skolkovo’s space cluster, noted that urban air mobility is a global trend.
“One can see efforts to develop highly autonomous advanced urban air transport both by industry leaders like Airbus and Boeing, and by startups everywhere around the globe, from the U.S. to China,” Kosenkov told Sk.ru.
“It’s great that the Skolkovo ecosystem has a plethora of startups tackling this challenge. We hope that Russia will compete with other leaders in this race to make the dream of daily convenient and comfortable air transportation a reality.”