6 strange flying machines to take to the skies

Yes, you can actually fly in these unusual creations, but we wouldn’t recommend all of them.
By Will Gray

Hover bikes, strange drone-like creations with multiple rotor blades and one invention involving a Swiss ball. Welcome to the wacky world of home-made flying machines.

But before you make fun, remember that these inventions all have serious brains behind them, are the result of years of research – and have all ACTUALLY taken off. Still, it may be still be some time before they go mainstream and we can envisage some objections from aviation authorities...

Volocopter

Prototype volocopter
So I've got this idea to fly on a Swiss ball... © Beate Kern

Manufacturer: e-Volo, Germany
Type: Electric VTOL aircraft
Specifications: Cruising speed 100km/h; Max altitude 6500ft; Max take-off weight 450kg
Cost: €250,000
Wacky score: 10

This incredible 18-rotor machine looks like a giant drone. It has come a long way since its fragile looking VC1 prototype (pictured above) and aims to deliver the convenience of a helicopter without the complex controls.

The VC200 flew in 2013 but can only manage 20 minutes before the juice runs out. A hybrid is being developed until battery technology catches up.

Jetman

Jetman Yves Rossy in action
Get some wings and become a jetman © Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Type: Fixed wing powered strap-on suit
Specifications: Top decent speed 300km/h; 200ft/min climb rate; 200lb of engine thrust
Cost: Development cost around €85,000
Wacky score: 7

Swiss pilot Yves Rossy, known as the 'Jetman', pioneered this jet-powered wing ‘backpack’ that turns him into a one-man flying machine. It has a 2.4m wingspan and is powered by four jet engines. Stratos jump legend Felix Baumgartner flew across the channel with a fixed delta wing in 2003 but that didn't have a jet attached.

AERO-X Hover bike

Rossy flew it over the Alps in 2008 but fell 5km short trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar in 2009. It has now been certified in the USA by the FAA.

Aerofex hover bike in action
Hover bike: like something out of Star Wars © aerofex.com

Manufacturer: Aerofex, USA
Type: Hover bike
Specifications: Top speed 72.5km/h; Max altitude 12ft, Useful load 140kg; Endurance 1.25hrs
Cost: €76,000
Wacky score: 9

Is that from Star Wars? Nope. It’s a real-life hover bike, floating on two rotors and flown by simply leaning in the direction the pilot wants to go. No really. It exists. And it has a spare seat for a passenger.

Tested already and slated for sale in 2017, this ‘off highway vehicle’ is apparently easy to fly – but in case things go wrong it has optional airbags.

Transition flying car

Terrafugia Transition take-off
It takes off too... © terrafugia.com
A Terrafugia Transition fills up at a gas station
Expect some strange looks at the gas station © terrafugia.com

Manufacturer: Terrafugia, USA
Type: Street-legal flying vehicle
Specifications: Cruising speed 160km/h; Range 660km; Take-off distance 518m to reach 50ft. Fuel economy on road 6.7L/100km
Cost: €250,000
Wacky score: 6

It may just look like a plane with fold-up wings, but it has been certified as roadworthy in the US and converts between flying and driving modes in less than a minute. And it fits in a standard home car garage.

M400 SKYCAR

M400 Skycar preparing for lift-off
M400 Skycar preparing for lift-off © Moller.com

Manufacturer: Moller International, USA
Type: Four-engine VTOL ‘volantor’ aircraft
Specifications: Top speed 533km/h; Cruise speed 496km/h; Endurance 5.9hrs; Max altitude 36,000ft
Cost: €450,000
Wacky score: 10

Inventor Dr Paul Moller has spent 50 years creating his dream, facing criticism and financial challenges along the way, but with the rotary VTOL M400X prototype he hopes he is almost there.

It can fit on a road, carries four people and has been flown – if somewhat briefly and gingerly. The team is now working to obtain certification.

Parajet Skycar

The skyrunner goes for a flight
ATV to aircraft in minutes © Parajet.com

Manufacturer: Parajet International Ltd., U.K.
Type: Paraglider buggy
Specifications: Top speed 88km/h; Altitude 10,000ft; Range 320km; Fuel economy on road 4.2L/100km
Cost: €106,000
Wacky score: 6

With a giant rear-mounted turbo prop and a ram-air parafoil wing, this goes from ATV to lightweight aircraft in minutes and can take off from short makeshift runways on tarmac, grass and even beaches.

Manufacturers expect to secure an S-LSA Light Sport Aircraft certificate by the end of the year, meaning just 12 hours of lessons are needed to fly it.

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