Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hoverboards: Are we there yet?

As the year of 2015 draws to a close, many fans of the beloved classic, Back to the Future, bemoan the fact that in 2015 we have not created all of the wonderful inventions that had been promised via Marty McFly's adventures. However, I did some digging and found some very promising prospects on the creation of a hoverboard. Three types of hovercraft, that actually function as we would a hoverboard would, are currently on the market. Two of these hovercraft, the Hendo and Lexus, rely on magnetic fields for the source of repulsion necessary to overcome the force of gravity. The other hovercraft works like a small helicopter, using thrust generated by blades moving air at a high speed.

In a quick calculation I determined how much force would be necessary for a hoverboard to lift a person off of the ground. For a person weighing 70 kg to stand on a 5kg hoverboard, their force due to weight would be about 735 N. In order to lift that person into the air, the force provided by the craft must be more than 735 N.

The other option for a "hoverboard" comes from the self balancing motorized scooter. It works using pressure plates, infrared detectors, and a gyroscope. By adjusting the rpm and angle of the wheels based on the movement of the person standing on the board, the "hoverboard" allows the person to move about without handles or any outside force exerted by themselves. The issue with these is that since the "hoverboards" are so popular in demand there has been an increase in their cheap manufacture, which leads to the use of cheap parts. Since lithium batteries are now being produced cheaply (and poorly), these cheaply produces "hoverboards" are provided cheap lithium batteries that are more prone to short circuit and combustion. For this reason, these boards have been banned from airports.

So maybe we haven't perfected the hoverboard yet, but we seem to be on the path to creating a cool new way to travel!

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