We’ve gotten used to the fast pace of technological innovation in the modern era. Inventions like the Internet and the smart phone have revolutionized not just how we communicate, but how we work. Ideas we once thought the province of science fiction are now science fact.
However, there’s some tech that we’re still waiting on. We don’t have transporters yet. Multiple generations of geeks would kill for (and, presumably, with) a functioning light saber. And we don’t have hoverbikes.
XTURISMO debuts at Detroit Motor Show
FNN Japan reported this week on the killer debut of the XTURISMO hoverbike at the Detroit Motor Show in the United States. The bike can reportedly travel for up to 40 minutes. It can also hit a max speed of 100kmh (62.1mph). (That puts it at just above US highway speeds.) It can fit exactly one rider. As for climbing height, one report says the bike can elevate up to three meters off of the ground.
The hoverbike is the product of startup company A.L.I. Technologies, a Japanese company based in the Shiba Koen neighborhood of Tokyo that has previously specialized in drone technology. Company engineers took the lessons they had used making drones and used trial-and-error to arrive at the bike’s current design.
The company has made waves before with demonstrations in Japan. In October last year, they gave reporters a demonstration at the Fuji Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Assording to Asahi Shinbun, the bike is powered by four propellers – two each in the front and back. Riders lean forward on the bike to propel it forward.
A.L.I. CEO Katano Daisuke told Asahi that the company is aiming to make multiple improvements to the bike. A key one? Increasing its max elevation. At current heights, the hoverbike might qualify as a motor vehicle but doesn’t come close to aircraft qualifications.
Can you buy a hoverbike?
Yes, you can buy the XTURISMO hoverbike. But you might not like the price tag. And you’d need to be content with using it on private lands for now.
First, the price. You can buy the XTURISMO online through AERWINS, a US company. (AERWINS appears to be owned and controlled by the folks running A.L.I.. Katano Daisuke, A.L.I., CEO, serves as AERWINS’ COO.)
Tempted to buy one? Well, make sure you have an extra USD $777,000 burning a hole in your pocket for the privilege. And whatever the damn thing’s gonna cost you in maintenance as well.
You’ll also need to ensure you have somewhere nice and private to use it. Hoverbikes aren’t exactly cleared for mingling with traffic in…well, pretty much anywhere.
A.L.I. says it’s working to make multiple safety improvements and get the bike cleared for roadway usage in various countries by 2025. In Japan, that means getting the vehicle cleared for categorization as a motor vehicle under transportation safety laws.
Of course, that raises another question: does it qualify as an aircraft? In its current state, the XTURISMO is a long ways away from earning that distinction. International law decrees that aircraft must be able to maintain an altitude of at least 150 meters (492 feet). And they also need to clear a number of regulatory hurdles before they’re admitted for use.
That last one could prove challenging in some countries. According to one expert on Quora, if you travel in densely-populated areas in the US, you need to be 1,000 feet above the largest building. That puts you in Class E airspace, which is regulated. In other words, you’d need to file a flight plan.
This assumes regulators would even ever approve personal hoverbikes as aircraft. The additional burden that would place on the air traffic control system would need to be quantified and paid for.
For now, as one commenter put it, buying a hoverbike means you have a cool craft with practically no place to use it.
So, if you’re gonna plunk down that $770K, make sure you own an empty plot of land or a race track. Hey, get a few friends to buy their own bikes and you could pod race…
Is Japan’s reputation for cool tech making a comeback?
Japan has long had a reputation for cool technology that can be seen in cultural phenomenon such as cyberpunk. It’s also been at the cutting edge of robotics for years. At least one airline was looking a few years back at equipping baggage handlers with power suits. And some restaurants are experimenting with using robots for contactless service.
However, in recent years, Japan’s reputation for technological cool has been usurped by other countries, such as South Korea. The country’s conservative tendencies in business also mean some technology hangs around way past its shelf life. As a recent example, many companies in Japan had a collective freakout when Microsoft officially ended support for Internet Explorer.
But Japan still has amazing technologists and researchers who continue to make key discoveries in multiple fields, such as medicine. And with Japan’s startup market growing, we’re bound to see more great tech in the near future.
It’ll also be exciting to see what advances A.L.I. makes with their hoverbike technology. And whether normal consumers will eventually be able to use one.
What to Read Next
 米モーターショーに「空飛ぶバイク」登場 日本のスタートアップ企業が開発. FNN Prime Online
 空飛ぶバイク、来年前半にも手に入る? 走行公開、当面は私有地のみ. Asahi Shinbun
 Aircraft: Would the Hover bike need FAA certification? Quora
 Nobel Prize