Imitating E.T.: Two British cyclists design and fly a flying bike

Two British cyclists with life-long dreams of flight have created one of the world’s first flying bicycles – a conventional bike that converts to an easy-to-operate aircraft that they claim can soar to 4,000 feet and cover 75 miles+ after liftoff.

Yannick Read, 42, and John Foden, 37, who met while living on the same road in Kingston upon Thames, are both avid cyclists who decided to partner together to create a flying bike. As Read told ABCNews.com:

“Growing up we wanted to be pilots, but training and maintenance and cost are real barriers. We wanted to create an aircraft that was as accessible, relatively speaking, as could be.”

In March 2011, read sent a long-shot email to Jim Edmondson with British paramotor manufacturer Parajet to outline the pair’s design and concept for a flying bike. To their surprise, Edmondson was not only enthusiastic, but told the pair to widen their concept as they would have his assistance and support.

The results of their work is the Paravelo, a combination of a para-wing and a conventional bike which (like various recent flying car concepts) tows a trailer carrying a powerful fan. When the cyclist reaches a stretch of open road, the para-wing is unfolded, the fan with an electric-start motor is started and the bike is airborne in a matter of meters. At this point in time, Read says:

“We built a series of prototypes, and the current one is fairly polished. The next version, with funding, would be to develop, to ruggedize it, make it more robust, the way we envision it being used — as a bicycle Monday to Friday. You will be able to commute on the bike. Then, make use of the flying capability.”

Read and Foden have begun a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of reaching £50,000 ($78,000) to launch their flying bike.

At least for now, flying bikes in the UK don’t require a special license to operate; but of course, that might change soon if they gain in popularity. Read also added that:

“It’s safe because of low air speeds. You’re flying about 25 miles per hour, that low speed makes it so safe. In terms of controlling, it’s like controlling a little Vespa scooter.”

In other words, if you want to imitate the famous flying bike scene E.T., soon you will be able to!

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