"We don't know if Lazareth is genuinely intending to test fly this thing,"we wrote when we first saw La Moto Volante late last year, "or just present it as a work of art." Well, a new video answers that question pretty comprehensively, as it shows this beast of a thing taking off and achieving a stable hover on tethers.
It's early days yet, but Ludovic Lazareth has already delivered an impressive result. This French custom auto/moto maker has a long history of building wacky and bizarre one-offs and short run vehicles, but the Moto Volante flying motorcycle is his most ambitious yet.
It looks like an evolution of Lazareth's own mind-boggling LM-847, a tilting four-wheeler built around a fire-breathing 470-horsepower Maserati engine. But the Moto Volante ups the ante by putting a 96,000-rpm JetCat jet turbine in the hub of each wheel and adding hydraulic actuators that tilt the four wheels out and up, forming a configuration something like a jet-powered quadcopter. Two extra jets can be added near the middle of the chassis to handle more weight.
You can ride the thing on the road, according to Lazareth, then when you've had it with traffic pull over to a suitable launch area. Pressing a button converts the bike from ride to fly mode and, after waiting about 60 seconds for the jets pre-heat, you can lift off and leave the gridlock behind.
It's truly impressive how Lazareth has designed and executed the bike's unique fly/ride power arms. Each of the rear wheels needs to be driven and braked for on-road use, and the front wheels need steering and braking capability – all while the main wheel hubs are built around jet turbines thick enough to lift this hulking beast of a thing, with a ballistic parachute mounted in each wheel as well in case things go wrong.
Since there are no chains leading back from that monster Maserati powerplant, it appears that the bike runs on electric drive to the two rear wheels in road mode. Indeed, we suspect there may not be a monster Maserati powerplant in there at all any more, with the giant V8 cylinders and plastic airbox cover possibly being faked up purely for appearance in the Moto Volante. Certainly, an engine that big would add significant weight, and keeping weight down is a challenge for any aircraft. France's BFM TV reports that the entire bike weighs just 140 kg (308 lb), and makes some 240 kg (529 lb) of thrust in flight mode.
Lazareth has hover-tested the bike on tethers to a height of 1 m (3.3 ft), with his brave and lightweight girlfriend Vanessa at the helm. Check out the video below. The Lazareth team will be bringing the Moto Volante to Gitex in Dubai this October, and will launch pre-orders there at a price of €496,000 (approx. US$560,000).
La Moto Volante joins Jetpack Aviation's Speeder as the only two jet-powered flying motorcycle concepts we've seen to date. Mind you, the Speeder is much more of a single-purpose vehicle without any road capability, and as such we'd expect its flight dynamics to be superior and less compromised. But Lazareth's got a full size prototype in the air that's also road-certified, so congratulations to the Lazareth team for building what must be acknowledged as a ground-breaking multi-mode vehicle.