In 1989, Marty McFly and Doc Brown used a custom DeLorean – complete with flux capacitor – to travel to the far-off, futuristic year of 2015. They discovered a utopian world filled with technological wonders, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Sadly, we never did get around to inventing self-tying shoes or holographic movie theaters in time for Doc Brown’s predictions to come true… though on the other hand, a scene where Marty checks out a movie theater clogged with remakes and sequels sounds just about right. However, we have taken steps towards replicating one of the most iconic inventions of the movie series, just behind the DeLorean itself – Marty’s classic hoverboard.
In 1915, a daring Austrian inventor by the name of Dagobert Muller created what he termed the “air cushion” boat: a vessel that could scoot around on land or sea via a pair of turbines and propellers that kept the boat’s skirt filled with air. We’d call it a “hovercraft” today, and this early, unconventional design ignited a sort of subtle fascination in our collective consciousness. Even today, getting an unwieldy metal contraption to gracefully float a few feet off the ground seems more like a sort of magic trick than anything attributable to the natural interplay of air turbines against a surface.
In Russia, drone-producing startup Hoversurf recently unveiled a brand new innovation that threatens to change everything we know about transportation. Deemed the “Scorpion-3,” the small device resembles the illicit lovechild of a Harley and a Chinook. The tiny airborne device represents one of the smallest hovercrafts yet conceived, floating three feet above the ground as though suspended from the ceiling by fishing wires. A small seat mounted in the very centre of the craft provides the Scorpion with a modicum of aerodynamic stability and the ability to seat a rider. In essence, Hoversurf has produced the first true “hoverbike.” (Great Scott!) Hoversurf boasts that amateurs and professionals alike can mount the Scorpion-3 and take to the air with ease; a custom software package aboard the Scorpion allows for both manual and automated control.
So now that we have the capacity to produce honest-to-goodness hoverbikes, what exactly can we do with the technology? Patience, Marty – don’t expect to see hoverbikes swarming the sky anytime soon. As is the case with most new technology, it’ll probably be a while before commuters can hoverbike to work. Safety remains a major concern; helicopter blades, however small they might be, still present a major risk for stray hands. At present, expect to see more and more Scorpions entered into various extreme sports competitions and exhibitional events. The future may not have turned out the way we predicted, but that hasn’t stopped the hoverbike from becoming reality. 2015 may not have been everything that Robert Zemeckis hyped it up to be, but even if it’s two years late, some researchers are proving Doc Brown proud.