Jim Pitts is one of the most determined tinkerers you'll every come across. He's the mind behind the HoverSkater, an unusual Kickstarter project that aims to fund the production of a strange cross between a hovercraft and a skateboard.
The inspiration for the HoverSkater came about a long time ago. "In the 1970s I fell in love with hovercrafts and soon decided to hybrid one with a skateboard in order to make hovercrafts smaller," Pitts tells Crave. "Later, I completed my very first prototype, but I realized it was not marketable because of its excessive weight and low power. The technology was just not good enough back then make this work."
The technology seems to have finally caught up to Pitts' vision, though it took him a decade of work to get to his current prototype. A lot of people would have given up before getting there. "Changing technology continues to keep me inspired," Pitts says. Smaller, longer-lasting batteries are a big boon. Modern electric motors spool up faster. LED lights are low-power and lovely. Pitts also wants to incorporate carbon fiber into the final product.
The HoverSkater works similarly to a hovercraft in that an air turbine is used to inflate a rubber air cushion underneath what looks like a large skateboard. Instead of a fan propelling it forward, it has an electric wheel. As it moves along, the wheels lift off the ground, creating a unique riding experience.
Pitts quotes his 15-year-old grandson as saying, "It makes me feel like I am flying like Ironman!" A surfer who test-rode the prototype described the experience as feeling like surfing on an air bubble.
Pitts says his biggest challenge has been convincing people his invention works. His Kickstarter video shows demonstrations of the latest prototype in action. "It can actually lift over 300 pounds, and I believe that the manufactured version might be able to lift a little bit more," he says.
The HoverSkater has some other challenges ahead. It's expensive. The early-bird pledge price is $1,400 (roughly £836, AU$1,514), with the regular price coming in at $1,500 (about £895, AU$1,622). The air turbine is definitely loud. It won't work on water, since it uses a wheel for propulsion. The battery life is extremely variable, though you can use it as a regular skateboard if the batteries die while you're out and about.
Interested buyers, however, are likely to overlook the early-adopter drawbacks in exchange for the thrill of riding a new form of transportation. If you really want to do it up right, then get out your Marty McFly costume and hang 10 with your new HoverSkater.