06/23/2015 04:05 EDT | Updated 06/23/2016 05:59 EDT

Hoverbikes for U.S. military in development

A U.S. and a U.K. company say they're teaming up to develop hoverbike technology for the U.S. Department of Defence.

The military wants to use hoverbikes as "tactical reconnaissance vehicles" for scouting, says a recent news release from U.K.-based Malloy Aeronautics and U.S.-based SURVICE Engineering Co.

Malloy Aeronautics began developing the hoverbike years ago in an effort to develop a cheaper, safer alternative to helicopters, which can strike things with their rotors, damaging property and causing a crash.

The hoverbike, which is designed to fly with or without a human pilot, could also be used for applications such as search and rescue, humanitarian relief, herding cattle, powerline inspections, geosurveying, filmmaking and transport of people and supplies over difficult terrain.

So far, the company has built and tested two prototypes on the ground. The company is flight-testing a full-size "quadrocopter" version, with one pair of overlapping, enclosed rotors in the front and a second pair of overlapping rotors behind the pilot's seat.

Grant Stapleton, director of sales and marketing for Malloy, told Defense News and the Military Times that the hoverbike is expected to be able fly up to 2,700 metres above the ground carrying up to 113 kilograms for about as long as a regular small helicopter. Stapleton estimates it will cost about the same as a high-end SUV or executive car, far less than a typical helicopter.

Research and development is being conducted with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

The first version of the hoverbike was built by Chris Malloy of New Zealand, who founded Malloy Aeronautics after the U.S. military expressed interest in the design.

The company launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, raising more than £64,000 ($124,000) by selling 1/3-scale model hoverbike drones to help fund the construction of a full-scale hoverbike prototype.

Malloy isn't the only company currently working to develop a hoverbike. Manhattan Beach., Calif.-based Aerofex aims to start selling its $85,000 Aero-X hoverbike, which can fly a maximum up three metres above the ground, in 2017.