Remember the speeder bikes in the Star Wars films? The technology is now a reality. Dubai Police signed a deal with California startup Hoversurf last year, and officers on the force are currently learning how to fly the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
The police are training on the S3 2019 Hoverbike, which will be used by first responders in areas that are hard to access. Brigadier Khalid Nasser Alrazooqi, general director of Dubai Police’s artificial intelligence department, told CNN the department hopes to have the program up and running by 2020. Two crews are training to pilot the vehicles and others will be added in the future.
Individuals with experience riding motorcycles and operating drones are the most suited to ride the hoverbikes, according to Hoversurf chief operating officer Joseph Segura-Conn. Dubai Police will make a decision in the next month as to whether or not they want to order additional units, which aren’t cheap. They cost US$150,000 each.
Civilians are also allowed to purchase hoverbikes, but Segura-Conn noted that potential buyers must pass a screening first to prove they can handle the vehicles. A pilot’s license is not required to fly them. A video showing the Dubai Police participating in a flying lesson does not make maneuvering the vehicle look easy. It is also noisy, and the propeller blades are intimidating.
The Hoversurf S3 2019 hoverbike weighs 253 pounds and has a maximum speed of 60 mph. Its safe flying altitude is 16 feet. It can currently only fly 10-25 minutes with a pilot (versus up to 40 minutes in drone mode). It takes 2.5 hours to charge the battery.
eVTOLs have limited battery power, which affects flight times. Hoversurf and Dubai Police are looking into fixing the issue by either improving battery technology or making the propulsion system more efficient.
Hoversurf is already working on a second generation hoverbike with a ducted fan system that is smaller, quieter and safer as well as more efficient than propellers with similar momentum, reports CNN.
Hoversurf is also working on a two-seat flying car, according to Segura-Conn. The company plans on unveiling the vehicle in the next few months with an aim of releasing it in 2020.
According to Tim Robinson, editor-in-chief of Aerospace magazine, numerous companies are experimenting with eVTOL vehicles or flying cars, making it a “very exciting time” for innovation. He estimates there are more than 100 projects currently underway.