June 22, 2015 5:43 PM EDT

The U.S. Defense Department has taken the plunge on hoverbikes, striking a deal with a U.K.-based engineering firm to develop a functioning prototype vehicle that can conduct reconnaissance missions, deliver supplies or even ferry human passengers.

U.K.-based engineering firm Malloy Aeronautics grabbed the Defense Department’s attention with a functioning, small-scale model hoverbike. At three times the size, engineers say the bike could present a safer, cheaper and more portable alternative to the typical helicopter.

“Lots of them can be moved around and deployed in the places that you need them very easily and very quickly,” Malloy Marketing Sales Director Grant Stapleton told Reuters.

Malloy Aeronautics will set up a joint office with U.S.-based defense firm SURVICE Engineering Co. in Maryland, near the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Still, there’s no guarantee the hoverbike could ever see active duty: a press release stresses the DoD deal is for research and development only at this point.



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