The full-sized prototype of the "Hoverbike," a turbofan-powered unmanned vehicle being developed, in part, by a Harford County firm, to carry supplies and equipment to and from troops on the battlefield, has been a major hit at this year's Farnborough International Airshow in Hampshire, England.
The SURVICE Engineering Co., based in Belcamp, is working with U.K.-based Malloy Aeronautics Ltd. to develop the Hoverbike, under a contract with the Department of Defense.
The Army is developing a Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV, and the Hoverbike is among the "leading concepts" for the vehicle, according to a SURVICE website on the vehicle.
"I would say that we really have had nonstop traffic at our booth," Mark Butkiewicz, of SURVICE, said by phone from the air show Wednesday.
Butkiewicz is manager of SURVICE's Applied Technology Operation, which is focused on research and development.
SURVICE is among nine Maryland companies with displays at the Maryland Pavilion at the air show. The delegation is being led by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Commerce Secretary Mike Gill.
"I think it's been very worthwhile for us to come out here to Farnborough," Butkiewicz said.
The event, which draws aerospace companies from all over the world to show their latest products and technology, alternates between Paris and England each year.
A one-third scale model of the Hoverbike was unveiled during the Paris show last June, and Rutherford was on hand for that event.
"This is their signature product," Karen Hood, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Commerce, said of SURVICE.
Hood said the Hoverbike has attracted a lot of attention "because it really is the next generation of drone technology."
"Maryland does have a very significant aerospace sector, and the fact that we're developing something that's cutting edge and that we're doing a lot of the research and development here in Maryland is exciting," Hood said.
The Hoverbike has two overlapping quad rotors on each end. It is being designed as an unmanned drone, but it can hold a pilot – mannequins can be seen in company photos and videos riding it like a motorcycle.
It has an "adaptable chassis" that can be adjusted to hold various types of loads, depending on how the vehicle is being used, according to the SURVICE website.
The vehicle travels using "autonomous, simple waypoint-to-waypoint navigation," and it does not need large runways or cleared landing zones, according to the website.
"We've been flying this vehicle for several months," Butkiewicz said of testing the prototype.
He said there have not been flight demonstrations at Farnborough, though, as the newest variant could be unveiled in the coming weeks.
"We may fly the next variant the next time we're at Farnborough," Butkiewicz said.
He wrote in a follow-up email that "the Hoverbike is a technology whose time has come," with its unique "patent-pending overlapping quadrotor design."
"I believe drones and drone technology will continue to evolve, and will come in various shapes and sizes to meet a range of user needs and requirements," Butkiewicz wrote. "Regulations for their safe and responsible use will likely also evolve over time."
SURVICE and many of the other Maryland companies at Farnborough are there with financial support from the state in the form of ExportMD grants from the Commerce Department.
The grants are meant for small and mid-size companies that want to "explore a global market, but they may not have the budget to do so," Hood said.
The state provides up to $5,000 for each company to get to shows like Farnborough and cover expenses such as registration fees and materials, Hood said.
Butkiewicz said the grant for SURVICE has helped cover needs such as the logistics of getting the Hoverbike to the show and materials for the booth.
"We're getting international exposure of the work that we've been doing at a major air show," he said. "We couldn't do it without help from the State of Maryland."
The Farnborough Air Show lasts through Saturday; visit http://www.farnborough.com/trade for more information.
More information about the Hoverbike is online at http://hoverbike.survice.com.