Drones are fast becoming indispensable in modern life, whether as a cheap way to make stunning videos or as a future delivery system for essential supplies. But you’ve probably never considered having one built into your bike.
Honda Is Developing a Bike-mounted Drone
Honda has. Its R&D department has filed a patent application for a motorcycle-mounted drone, though it’s clearly a very long-distance vision of the future rather than something that’s just around the corner. The new patent document describes a drone with four rotors that sits in a housing in the extended tail of a motorcycle. The idea is that it’s a completely autonomous flying machine that can be released on command and return automatically to the bike when needing a recharge.
If you’re asking why you’d need such a thing, you’re not alone. Even Honda’s own patent is a bit vague on the subject, listing a host of possible uses without focusing on a single main benefit.
Among the potential purposes of the drone, Honda suggests it could be used to deliver fully charged battery packs to an electric motorcycle—solving the range problem of electric bikes—though there’s no clear mechanism for actually swapping the packs, and given current technology it’s impossible to imagine a quadcopter that’s both small enough to fit on a bike and big enough to carry a battery able to propel the same bike.
A more realistic suggestion is that the drone could work as part of a traffic monitoring system, watching the road ahead and feeding information back to the bike’s rider to warn of problems before they come into view at ground level. The drone is also suggested as a sort of communications relay, extending the range of systems on the bike itself or alerting emergency services in the event of an accident, and Honda even says that while docked it could be incorporated into the bike’s cooling system, using the rotors as fans to suck air past a radiator.
Given that drones, communications systems, and motorcycles are all well-established technologies, you might be wondering what Honda is actually trying to patent. It seems that the main technical novelty on the bike-mounted drone is a system to move the rotors, making the quadcopter compact enough to fit into a housing on a motorcycle but also allowing the rotors to spread further apart once it’s released, making a bigger, more stable drone.
It’s also worth noting that Honda’s patent clearly shows the drone fitted to an electric sportbike. While we can’t infer too much from the rather simplistic drawings, of all the machines Honda could have shown the drone with, the firm has chosen one of the most tempting—particularly taking into account teases like the stunning RC-E concept bike from 2011 and the long-standing Mugen efforts at the TT Zero, which were widely seen as a Honda-backed electric bike development project.