Sure, the TIE Fighters from “Star Wars” are fast, furious, and fantastic. The TARDIS from “Doctor Who” is divine. The hoverboard from “Back to the Future II” is rakish.
But one needn’t always turn to science-fiction to get a load of exotic transports. There are quite a few mechanical beasts in our own realm that are somewhat novel in the sense that we don’t encounter them every day.
A helicopter has, what, two rotor blades? Now, think a quadcopter: a drone, with four rotor blades, such as the ones Amazon has begun delivering packages with. Next, picture one with 18 of those, and a small cockpit that can seat a pilot and a companion.
That’s the “volocopter,” now in development, in Germany, by e-Volo. It doesn’t require a runway, and is powered by batteries, making it emissions-free. Each is built for short recreational flights, and carries a price tag of about $340,000.
In “Thunderball” (1965), James Bond (Sean Connery) soared up in a “jetpack” to flee from the baddies, and rendezvous with his French contact. This transport is a backpack-size rocket, which enables a single flier to be airborne by ejecting a column of gases.
A “jet ski” is a nifty nautical bike.
A “flyboard” is somewhat like a jetpack, but propelled by water. The rider stands on a board, tethered to a jet ski by a long hose. The jet ski shoots a blast of water to the person’s boots, which has nozzles underneath to channel the water. The escaping, high-pressure liquid provides the thrust to catapult him or her nearly 35 feet up in the air or to dive headlong into the water, down to a depth of eight feet.
In Business Insider, Robert Johnson writes:
In the thick of the Cold War, the Soviet Union built a revolutionary transport that was bigger than any plane, and faster than any ship. It was also capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Called a “ground-effect vehicle,” the 300-feet-long Ekranoplane flew just four meters off the surface of the water with the help its enormous wings.
A “hovercraft” is an amphibious vehicle that rides on a thick cushion of air, and can, therefore, glide over land, water, mud, ice, even glass.
A “hydrofoil” is a boat with pedestals. Its hull is fitted with vanes or “foils,” which lift the hull out of the water, and lets it bounce speedily across it.
A “floatplane,” a WYSIWYG vessel, is an aircraft that can land on, and take off from water. And for that reason, it has a pair of floats, not wheels.
In “You Only Live Twice” (1967), 007 (Roger Moore) flew a heavily-armed “autogyro” named Little Nellie. An autogyro is a cross between a helicopter and a turboprop, and has both freely-rotating horizontal blades and a propeller. It differs from a chopper in that its blades aren’t powered.
A “glider” is a feather-light aircraft, designed to fly for long periods, without an engine.
An “airship” or “dirigible” is an aircraft, kept buoyant by a body of gas that’s lighter than air. In “A View to a Kill” (1985), the villain, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), owns one.
Early models ran on hydrogen, but after the German passenger airship, Hindenburg, burst into flames, in May, 1937, they’ve been replaced by helium.
A “flying saucer,” a quintessential U.F.O. icon, is a craft that has a disc-shaped body.