Aerofex, a California-based company says it's figured out how to make a working hovercraft, and they've got the video to prove it.
Devoted "Star Wars" fans will no doubt be the first to go out and purchase their very own hover bike once the futuristic vehicle hits stores so that they can act out the classic hover bike chase scene from "Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back."
For the uninitaited, here's a quick primer on the "speeder bike," from the Star Wars wiki:
Speeder bikes, also known as hover bikes, were open-air repulsorlift vehicles, usually carrying one or two passengers. Speeder bikes emphasized speed and maneuverability over conventional speeders and were popular with thrill-seeking teenagers and military scouts. A typical speeder bike had a maximum altitude of 10 meters (32 feet) and could thus maneuver deftly over very rough terrain. Some companies manufactured extras like sidecars for speeder bikes.
Designers and engineers have likely been trying to create real life versions of these sci-fi hovercrafts since the 1960s, but Aerofox seems to be the first company to produce a working prototype. The design uses knee-level control bars, and appears to really work. However, the hovercraft is still in testing and is currently capable of safely carrying a human at up to 30 mph at 15 feet in the air. If safety's not an issue, the bike can reportedly move as quickly as a helicopter given the right circumstances.
Aerofox founder Mark De Roche told Yahoo that he's hopeful that his hover bike will quickly catch on.
"Think of it as lowering the threshold of flight, down to the domain of ATV's (all-terrain vehicles)," he said. "It essentially captures the translations between the two in three axes (pitch, roll and yaw), and activates the aerodynamic controls required to counter the movement -- which lines the vehicle back up with the pilot. Since [the pilot's] balancing movements are instinctive and constant, it plays out quite effortlessly to him."
Sounds amazing, but don't get too excited yet. According to De Roche, the hover bike won't be done with testing until the end of 2013, and won't be available for purchase to the public until 2014 or 2015 at the earliest.