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Mag-Lev Startup Rolls Out Hover Kits To Developers, Public

June 12, 2016, 6:42 PM UTC
Arx Pax Hover Technology
Worker fixing an Arx Pax hover device
Arx Pax

You may remember Arx Pax as the brash startup that floated into the public eye with a 2014 Kickstarter offering a real-life hoverboard. No, not the kind with two wheels that caught fire (sometimes literally) in 2015—the Hendo board uses compact mag-lev technology to let skaters ride on nothing but air (watch skate legend Tony Hawk give it a whirl).

But the hoverboard was just the splashy leading edge of Arx Pax’s broader strategy—licensing its hover technology to third-party developers. The hope is that other companies will come up with a broader range of applications than the company could tackle on its own. Arx Pax’s tech has a variety of potential applications in part because, instead of just making something hover, it can actually generate directional thrust.

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This week, Arx Pax took a big step forward in that strategy by offering its engines for sale to the public, in two versions. For $1,589, you can pick up a kit containing four small hover engines and accompanying servos, controllers, and software. The kit is probably most useful for concept-testing, though you could sure make some fun toys with it.

For full-scale projects, the company is also offering its Hover Engine 3.0 at the sweet sum of $9,999 a pair. They’re able to lift about 130 pounds each, and are comparable to the engines used in the Hendo board. There’s currently a waiting list for those.

According to the company, early customers for its kits and engines include Ball Aerospace and Pampa Technologies, an Argentinian company that builds autonomous factory vehicles.

Manufacturing is probably the most immediate enterprise application for magnetic hover technology. In high-tech manufacturing facilities, using wheels to move components or tools is often a no-no because they produce dust that can interfere with chip fabrication or electronic assembly. The current industry standard for clean room use is air-cushion devices, which in general have lower fault tolerance and provide less lift than mag-lev.

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Arx Pax has also entered a development agreement with NASA to explore using its hover technology to coordinate satellite deployment, and promoted itself aggressively to participants in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, convincing many student teams to incorporate its engines into their preliminary designs.

Perhaps Arx Pax’s most audacious suggestion is that supersized versions of the hover engines could someday let buildings hover to protect against earthquakes and other natural disasters. That concept was in fact the initial impetus behind the founding of Arx Pax – CEO Greg Henderson is an architect by training.