Cruise-capable eVTOL flying motorcycle rocks tilting thrusters

Imagine waking early Sunday morning to ride the twisty coastal mountains of beautiful southern California. It’s going to be a perfect day and you expect exactly zero traffic, because you’re leaving the Hayabusa in the garage and taking your UDX Airwolf hoverbike.

You don your lid, crank up your favorite tunes, spin up the ducted fans, lift off and hover out of your garage before blasting off with all the youth and vigor you’ve ever known. Within seconds, you’re doing 142 mph (230 km/h), speeding over traffic, stop lights, and police with radar like a Peregrine falcon on your way to your favorite canyons…

This is the dream Czech startup UDX is working toward. Airwolf is a 430-hp (320-kW) motorcycle-esque eVTOL with “hummingbird-like” agility that seats two. It may look like a typical quadcopter, but what really sets the Airwolf apart from most other buy’n’fly eVTOL designs I’ve seen is the tilting propulsion pods. Each of its four shrouded fan units can move independently.

UDX AIRWOLF hoverbike official teaser

Those aren’t just structural stanchions holding it all together. They’re bona fide wings, meticulously designed and engineered to be effective enough in forward flight to generate roughly 50% of the lift needed to keep this hoverbike in the air. All that lift means more efficient flight, which means less draw on the batteries, giving you a longer range than you’d have otherwise.

The Airwolf should weigh in at a fairly hefty 639 lb (230 kg) but still promises to go from 0 to 60mph (96 km/h) in three seconds with a 142 mph (229 km/h) top speed. Neat. The consequence of high maneuverability and speed with all that weight is an estimated 25-minute flight time and 41-mile (66-km) range … not so neat.

But what a thrilling half-hour that would be. It would be like living out your fantasies of being Maverick from Top Gun, performing all the high-banking aerobatics the electronic flight controller would allow as you whiz through a steep-walled canyon with a 360-degree view, feeling the rush of wind and maybe even the excited squeeze of your pillion, had you taken off with a passenger or picked one up along the way.

The UDX Airwolf blasting out of a canyon
The UDX Airwolf blasting out of a canyon

UDX via YouTube

And then you see the price tag of US$320,000. Only the well-heeled need apply.

So that’s the dream, and the renders. Where’s the reality at? UDX has built working prototypes at small scale and roughly quarter-scale. These incorporate that thrust-vectoring propulsion system, and they look reasonably stable and agile in flight testing. Check the largest out in the video below, complete with a cute little plastic rider.

Airwolf scale prototype test flight

It’s a long way from production, in other words – and probably still a long shot.

But it’s got a shot nonetheless; with battery and electric motor technology improving on what seems like a daily basis, these relatively compact personal eVTOLs no longer look like a retro-futurist dream; they’re already here, albeit expensive and in small numbers. Some are pitched as fun machines, others aspire to be practical transport options for commuting to work, search and rescue operations, or quick responses to accidents.

To fly the UDX Airwolf, you’ll need to have a sports pilot license in the US. That means 20 hours of flight training (five of which can be solo) and passing a couple of tests. Pretty easy, and not nearly as expensive as a private pilot license.

UDX isn’t the only company trying to feed that two-wheeled thrill in the air.

Lazareth’s Moto Volante is a semi-functioning road-and-air-going jet-cycle from five years ago. It “flew” while tethered to the ground with actual jet turbine engines in each of the four wheel hubs (yes, I know I said motorcycle and four wheels … see the video below, it’s a bit of a “transformer”). Lazareth is the most motorcycle-looking of the bunch.

Lazareth LMV 496 – Episode 3 – “La Moto Volante” – Flying Bike

Mayman Aerospace (formerly Jetpack Aviation) is another. These guys also use screaming, thrust-vectoring gimbaled turbojets at each corner, with the expectation of using a single turbofan and ducting – like a Harrier AV-8A jet – in the future. Given that it runs on fossil fuels, Mayman’s Speeder will boast proper range and speeds into the hundreds of miles per hour.

The downside, of course, is that turbojets are incredibly noisy and won’t be suitable for taking off and landing in your strict, quiet, HOA-run gated community of senior citizens.

A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's P2
A rendering of Jetpack Aviation’s P2

Jetpack Aviations

Another eVTOL that’s caught our attention is the Air One made by Air, an Israeli company that has functional aircraft available for preorder today. Fully enclosed and closer to a Jetsons-style flying car than a motorcycle, it does share some characteristics with the Airwolf – namely, it’s one of only a few personal buy’n’fly eVTOLS with range-extending wings, in this case contributing 60% of the aircraft’s lift at speed.

Israel's Air One eVTOL, already taking to the skies
Israel’s Air One eVTOL, already taking to the skies

Lift like that gives the Air One a pretty impressive 110-mile (177-km) range at speeds up to 155 mph (250 km/h). The Air One’s battery pack can charge from 0 to 100% in only an hour. Another neat thing about the aircraft is the fact that its wings can fold up in five minutes, and it fits neatly on a trailer so you can take it wherever you want to go on vacation. But it is a closed cockpit, so there is that.

Which one would you choose?

Company website: UDX

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