It’s been a long time coming.
While Arthur C. Clarke’s satellites have taken to space, and James Bond’s futuristic mobile technology has become common place, still the dream of sustained personal flight has eluded us. But the future is here! Finally we can all take flight as Martin Aircraft in New Zealand releases the first commercially-available jet pack!
A bit of history…
Like many science fiction concepts, the jetpack design has become firmly entrenched in the collective psyche: ask anyone to draw you a jetpack and they will give you a man with two fiery pods strapped to his back gravitating him skyward. We owe much of this to James Bond’s Thunderball, which served to advertise the most successful of all the jetpack inventions; the Bell Rocket Belt.
Developed by the U.S. military in 1961 with the aim of producing an all-terrain vehicle to move military commanders around a battlefield, the Bell Rocket Belt could only maintain flight for 26 seconds on a full tank of fuel. After the film was released the subsequent clamoring for sales only served to prove what a marketable product a jetpack might be if one could be properly developed. Sadly with such limited application the Bell Rocket Belt was consigned merely to film work and TV appearances.
More recently, aside from the exploits of a brave few like Yves Rossy, attempts to realize a one-person flying machine ranging from flying exoskeletons to ion-propelled and water-drive technology have failed to gain momentum.
In 1998 and Martin Aircraft of Christchurch New Zealand was formed with the specific aim to build a jetpack that improved on the Bell Rocket Belt’s record fly time by 100 times. The concept, developed by Glenn Martin, manager of Martin Aircraft in 1981, was verified by the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Since then nine prototypes have been developed and it is lucky number nine that in 2005 broke the mold and achieve sustained flight times.
The Jetpack is constructed from carbon fiber composite, has a dry weight of 250 lbs (excluding safety equipment) and measures 5 ft high x 5.5 ft wide x 5 ft long. It’s driven by a 2.0 L V4 2 stroke engine rated at 200 hp (150 kw), can reach 8000 ft (estimated) and each of the two 1.7 ft wide rotors is made from carbon / Kevlar composite.
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