Personal Jetpacks to Begin Flight Tests

By Lisa Raffensperger | August 14, 2013 4:07 pm
jetpack P12

The latest prototype jetpack. Courtesy Martin Aircraft

It’s not nearly as sleek as the backpack-sized jetpacks that generations of sci-fi fans have lusted after. But the personal jetpack designed by Martin Aircraft has a crucial leg up on those designs: it exists in real life.

The company announced Tuesday that its prototype jetpack had been approved for manned test flights in New Zealand, where the developers are based. If testing goes according to plan, the inventors hope to have a specialized version available for sale to emergency first-responders by 2014, and a stripped-down version available to the general public by 2015.

Personal Flying Machine

The jetpack consists of a frame flanked by two cylinders containing propulsion fans, which are powered by gasoline. The frame straps around the pilot’s back, and she steers the jetpack with two joysticks.

The latest model, the P12, can reportedly climb more than half a mile and travel at a speed of about 43 mph. But don’t give up your wheels just yet: When they eventually go on sale, the personal flying machines are estimated to cost $150,000-$200,000. Each.

Testing, Testing

Earlier this year, the P12 was flown unmanned and remotely controlled, with ballast onboard to replicate the pilot’s weight.

The forthcoming manned tests come with pretty stringent safety standards, reports AFP:

It said the test flights would be subject to strict safety requirements, with flights  not allowed any higher than 20 feet above the ground or 25 feet above water. The flights are also limited to test areas over uninhabited land.

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  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Jonathan Tracey

    Maybe NintendoPower stopped exiating because the editors and writers had finally gotten enough quarters for these jetpacks, from the correction corner. Anyway, I’d love to read the technical specifications, as well as what kind of fuel these things use.

    • isochronous

      They run on regular gasoline

    • Byron Winchell

      The Martin Aircraft webpage has a technical specs page.

  • Mohammad Stacey

    If I remember correctly from a video I saw last year the machine has two enclosed fans for downward thrust powered by a big V6 two stroke petrol engine.

  • Arthur Smith

    How long can they stay in the air?

  • Moshe Feder

    Totally neat, but “jetpack”? Where the JET?

    • Byron Winchell

      Perhaps fan jet technology has improved and can be miniaturized. Even the modern F35 in VTOL roasts the ground underneath. I saw special test pads and even the development of a special fast set heat resistant concrete in accounts of that plane’s development. With a true Martin Jetpack, you would be adding your legs to the BBQ. Nice thought though.

      • Moshe Feder

        You’re right, of course, as I already knew. This is a point fictional treatments always skip over. (Consider the movie “The Rocketeer” for example.) The way these devices are traditionally depicted just doesn’t make aeronautical sense, even before we get to the issue of energy density.

        But if ducted fans are the practical solution, how about we give up the old name and start calling them “flight packs”?

  • Sanjosemike

    1. At a volume of noise like that, it’s like standing behind a 747 at the final stages of take-off. Even with hearing protection, if you use this even just occasionally, you run the risk of serious, permanent hearing loss.

    2. The trial run may look “stable” but unless you have extremely good “balancing” skills, and if you lean too far forward or back, you’re DEAD.

    3. The vibration of the device is most likely bone-shattering and might possibly rupture your bladder, even with a very cushioned chair.

    sanjosemike

    • Byron Winchell

      #1. Decades ago, I saw FedEx mechanics retrofitting “silencer pack” linings in the cowlings surrounding the fan-jet sections of high-by-pass jet engines (Federal anti-noise mandate). Wonder if Martin has done this part of their jetpack’s development.

      #2. Martin Aircraft is not going to risk a pilot and eventual customers to a non-gyro stabilized jet pack.

      #3. Maybe it’s the “brown note.”

      • Sanjosemike

        Byron, a gyro stabilizing system will add significantly to the weight of the flyer and reduce its maneuverability. These are probably the main reasons why it is now absent.
        Fitting cowlings around the fan jets to reduce noise will also reduce the power, probably to the extent of reducing the payload of the device to only non-human use.
        When that happens you basically have a noisy drone helicopter left.
        This ship has sunk.
        sanjosemike

        • Byron Winchell

          My comment was beyond any technical expertise I possess.

          You have probably seen or worked on aircraft gyro-stabilizer systems. I’m encouraged about the sub-miniature motion detectors found on the average smart phone that detect the angle at which the device is held. The JetPack already has remotely operable controls, I consider that it must possess some form of active stabilization to be viable, and that this would not represent a significant weight penalty. I did not mean any form of passive stabilization involving large flywheels or rotors although some effect might well be built-in on account of the large engine and fans. Perhaps the passive effect could even be enhanced by careful parallel placement of the spinning axes of the fan props and crankshaft of the engine. You can bet the props counter-rotate.

          The “silencer pack” liner material I spoke of was a double walled structural material with a non-random pattern of tiny holes facing inward towards the noisy blades of the fan section. The old cowlings came off, and new ones made of this stuff were put on. I may have misled with my use of the term “retrofit.” I did wonder at the time what would happen if the holes would become fouled with dust/debris over time. We were on a tour and the mechanic said the pattern of holes was specifically designed to absorb certain frequencies deemed most annoying. Anyway, I didn’t mean clumsy additions surrounding the current body and fans of the Jetpack.

          All in all, I wouldn’t want this hovering over my backyard party. It is an expensive, impractical rich man’s prestige toy, as I take it was your meaning.

          • Sanjosemike

            Byron, your excellent post touched on just a few of the engineering challenges for a personal so-called jet pack.
            Weight of the device is a huge issue all in itself, as well as stabilization. The physics of airfoils requires a large surface area, if you want to do any gliding.
            Aeronautical engineers always say that you can fly a brick with a powerful enough jet engine under it. You have basically described a rocket ship. But it will not display airfoil characteristics.
            There are good reasons why a personal jet-pack has never actually been developed. The military would love one and has invested millions trying to do it. The laws of physics are preventing it, because they are excluding airfoils.
            Everything changes when they include an airfoil. But then, they already have helicopters.
            sanjosemike

    • Cristian Aguilera

      You must be fun at parties…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mike Haxton

    there is no good reason why it cannot work and work well

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Timothy Gullett

    Put some inflatable or extendable wings on that sucker and you will really go places!

  • Thomas

    a fixed pitch electric multicopter would be cheaper ,safer,using software hardware, and sensors developed for the RC market,a new GPS sensor developed through kickstarter could also be used.A ballistic chute as well as backup flight control would make for a fun stable and safe aircraft.

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