Japanese soccer star Keisuke Honda is behind the launch of a $680,000 hover bike, unveiled by Tokyo-based drone startup ALI Technologies on Tuesday.
The ‘XTurismo Limited Edition’ is equipped with a conventional engine and four battery-powered motors and it’s claimed it can fly for 40 minutes at up to 100kph (62 mph).
The black and red hoverbike consists of a motorcycle-like body on top of propellers. The machine rests on landing skids when stationary.
The startup, whose backers include industrial heavyweights Mitsubishi Electric and Kyocera, demonstrated the bike with a short flight a few metres off the ground at a race track near Mount Fuji.
ALI Chief Executive Daisuke Katano said that in the near term its uses will be limited – as it will not be allowed to fly over Japan’s packed roads. But the bike could be used by rescue teams to reach difficult to access locations, he said.
Strict regulations in Japan driven by safety concerns have hobbled the growth of sectors like ride-sharing. Pending rule changes could extend the bike’s potential applications, Katano said.
Funding is flowing to startups from California-based Joby Aviation to Israel’s AIR who promise to usher in an era of personal air transportation from jetpacks to flying taxis.
Commercial success for ALI Technologies, whose suppliers include engine maker Kawasaki Heavy, would help reinforce Japan’s industrial edge amid a generational shift towards new technology such as autonomous and electric vehicles.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara