For day 4 of the Paris Air show, we’re in the heart of the Air Lab, a place quite literally packed to the rafters with all manner of cutting-edge gadgets. You can try out our first gizmo virtually but it could be a reality very soon.
Founder and CEO of the Hungarian company Bye Gravity- Balazs Kerulo, explained that the Flike (or ‘flying bike’) is essentially a drone you can sit on and fly like a helicopter. The machine has a real allure, people encircle it squinting with intrigue, poking and prodding it as if to make sure it’s real.
The Flike has already been taken on test flights, where it reached speeds of up to 60 km an hour. In theory it could go at least 100km an hour and reach heights of hundreds of metres but given that, for now, the maximum flight duration is 20 minutes, wasting energy on climbing to those heights is not necessarily advisable.
Balazs said that the technology is “already here.” All we are waiting for is certification from places like the European Aviation Safety Agency or the Federal Aviation Administration (in the USA). That means that it will be another two or three years before the Flike is available to buy. The exact price is not yet known but it is expected to be much closer to an flashy car than a private helicopter even at this early stage.
For now the closest we can get to the real experience involves jumping on the mock-up and putting on a virtual reality headset. I couldn’t resist having a go. What struck me was that in a very short time, controlling the two joysticks became quite instinctual. Having said that, piloting it did require so much concentration that I pulled some pretty horrible grimaces.
At any time, in both the virtual and physical versions, if you let go of the controls, the Flike just hovers steadily on a horizontal axis. At one point, I let out a gasp (it was more like a yelp), as I careened towards a virtual cliff. Balazs quickly reminded me to let go of the controls and explained that it will be possible to install a system that automatically stops the Flike in its tracks if a novice pilot were to get too near an obstacle.
“I’m quite positive that within 15 or 20 years, the big dream of mankind will come true,” Kerulo insisted. “I mean if you’ve seen Star Wars, if you’ve seen any other Science Fiction since the 40s it’s in the collective vision of mankind.”