Jetpacks are amazing. After all, being able to fly with a propulsion engine attached to your back is freakin’ awesome.
But if they’re so cool, why haven’t they caught on yet? With rockets, drones and hoverboards in the spotlight, when will the time come for jetpacks to take over the skies?
First of all, what is a jetpack? It’s a device that’s worn on the back, propelling the user into the air by means of a jet of gas, provided by a turbojet engine or a ducted fan. Sometimes water is used.
Throughout history, there were many attempts to make a viable jetpack, from the first oxygen-and-methane rocket-powered contraption sporting wings roughly 3 feet long, to a small and compact jump belt, which was powered by five canisters of high-pressure compressed nitrogen firing through two nozzles.
Jetpacks, enabling human flight like that of a bird, have been a dream for decades.
There are many reasons why they didn’t, er, take off. The first hurdle is the human body, which isn’t naturally built for flying. To compensate for that, jetpacks need to handle all in-flight factors, such as lift and stabilization. The next issue is the disparity between the combined weight of the pilot and the equipment, and the low energy density of available fuels. The result is a short flying time, negating jetpacks as a means of mass transportation. Until now.
The jetpacks I’m about to present are pushing the limits of what these amazing devices are capable of. Still, one question lingers: Are they ready for prime time? Let’s find out.
First up is the “world’s only true JetPack,” as claimed by Van Nuys, Calif.-based JetPack Aviation. This backpack-sized, jet-turbine-powered flight vehicle, dubbed JB-9, was seen in November 2015 flying over the Hudson River in New York, and afterwards soaring around the Statue of Liberty.
The JB-9 was over 40 years in the making and, although it achieved excellent results during both tethered and untethered tests, there is a new version, called JB-10, that will truly push the envelope. It will be capable of reaching heights of over 10,000 feet and flying at speeds over 100 miles per hour. The biggest letdown is flying time: around 10 minutes. But it’s more than adequate for its original purpose: short-burst, superhero-like experiences that are bound to stay with you for a lifetime.
Engineers at JetPack Aviation will continue to work on the JB-10, adding even more features such as a parachute safety system capable of rapid and low-height deployment, and an auto stability system for additional control during demanding flight conditions. If you’re hoping to buy one, be patient because the JB-9 isn’t yet ready for sale.
But if you’re ready to buy — and have $150,000 lying around — consider the Martin Jetpack.
Compared with the JB-9, the ducted-fan Martin Jetpack is considerably bulkier. It’s designed by the Martin Aircraft Co. Ltd. MJP, +0.00% The New Zealand-based company envisioned it to be a personal jetpack for the leisure market, but modern developments upgraded it for more serious purposes. The result is the First Responder Jetpack, a government- and military-oriented variant. It was built for saving people from fires, as well as for search-and-rescue operations, border security, disaster recovery and so on. This model will be commercially available in the second half of this year for $200,000. (The $150,000 model has fewer features.)
Here’s the Martin Jetpack in action:
So how does it work?
As you can see from the video, it’s big. In fact, it’s hefty enough to carry up to 705 pounds. For an optimal manned flight, though, the payload is closer to 265 pounds. Anyway, this weight capacity gives it a much more versatile set of features compared with the compact JB-9. For example, it can be used to deliver medical supplies and equipment to hard-to-reach areas. Its range is superior, thanks to its sizable tanks that can carry up to 45 liters (11.9 gallons) of fuel. The Martin Jetpack can fly for about 30 minutes at 34 mph.
But this is where it gets better: The Martin Jetpack can fly without a pilot — that is, remotely, using its fly-by-wire system. This feature expands the application of the jetpack, making it capable of navigating even harsher environments and delivering cargo in conditions that may be too dangerous for a manned flight.
There you have it. Which one do you like better? The smaller, more compact JB-10 or the bigger, bulkier, but ultimately more powerful Martin Jetpack? Would you like to fly one? Please let me know in the comment section below.