The Exciting Future Of Hoverboard Technology

By Gregory Myers on Saturday, November 1, 2014
hoverboard
“I need to borrow your . . . hoverboard?” —Marty McFly, Back to the Future II (1989)

In A Nutshell

If you’ve watched the Back to the Future trilogy, then you probably remember the iconic hoverboard that Marty McFly rides. For the longest time, people thought this technology was impossible, but we may soon have truly functioning hoverboards on the market. The board currently in development uses magnetic fields to make the board hover about an inch above the ground with a fully grown human standing on it, although it can only work over non-ferrous metallic surfaces because of the magnets.

The Whole Bushel

If you watched Back to the Future and you dreamed of a hoverboard, then you may soon be in luck, although only if you have about $10,000 to throw down. A new startup called Hendo has worked their way through multiple prototypes to come up with a hoverboard that really, truly hovers above the ground and can hold the weight of an adult human with no issues. According to the designers, the current board can levitate someone who weighs as much as 135 kilograms (300 lb), and in the future they expect to build models that deal with even higher weight classes. Unfortunately, it only hovers about an inch above the ground and doesn’t really have anything in the way of propulsion.

There are some other drawbacks as well. The main one is the problem of moving it where you actually want to go at any kind of speed. You can sort of lean into the board to make it move, but it just kind of drifts off to the side and can easily start spinning, making it very hard to control. Since the board doesn’t really have anything resembling speed and only raises you an inch, it’s not a safety concern, but it’s something the designers are clearly still working on. The more irritating drawback is that the board will only work over a non-ferrous metallic surface. This means if you aren’t above the right kind of metal, then your $10,000 hoverboard is entirely useless. This is, of course, due to the newly patented Magnetic Field Architecture technology being used to make the board hover.

The creators of this technology don’t want to stop at just perfecting a hoverboard, though. While the product is slated for commercial release in late 2015, the development team is already selling what they call a “white box,” a kit that includes a lot of the start-up technology needed to test and use the hover technology Hendo created. The creators of the technology want to get it in the hands of as many people as possible so it will be quickly developed further for any kind of possible hover application. The founder of Hendo has expressed interest in using the technology to list buildings as a mean to temporarily protect them in the case of earthquake tremors. He admits it would be an ambitious undertaking, but believes a hoverboard is a good first step.

The bigger drawback is something that plagues many advanced electronic devices today—power. Mobile phones, tablets, and other devices are constantly demanding a charge, and this machine will be no different. In its current form, the amount of energy required to keep it hovering while carrying a load is so staggering that a full battery charge only gives you 15 minutes of hovering. It is hoped that the battery technology will greatly advance in all areas, and we will be riding hoverboards for hours to our hearts’ content.

Show Me The Proof

Wired.com: The Physics of the Hendo Hoverboard
Engadget: We rode a $10,000 hoverboard, and you can too
The Guardian: Hey, McFly! Hoverboard available on Kickstarter for $10,000