World's first practical jetpack undergoes manned test flights
ABU DHABI // Move over, 007 – the UAE’s jetpack has taken to the skies.
And even before it goes on sale, 30 budding James Bonds have already put down deposits on the futuristic personal transport.
“It is a really exciting time for us,” said Peter Coker, chief executive of the Martin Aircraft Company in New Zealand, where the Martin Jetpack is being developed in partnership with Emirates Advanced Research and Technology Holding, Earth, and Khalifa University.
“We have had manned flights on lots of the prototypes in varying forms – this is the first one that is totally manoeuvrable.”
James Bowker, the company’s test pilot who put the latest P12 prototype through its paces, told his local TV station in New Zealand it was “a mixture of scary and just awesome”.
The device, displayed at the Idex defence conference in the capital this year, will be available to buy in 2015 for between Dh367,000 and Dh918,000, depending on the model. It is said to be suited for use by the military or in search and rescue.
Since the jetpack was showcased at Idex 2013 in Abu Dhabi, a number of adjustments have been made to the design of the craft to greatly improve its manoeuvrability.
The ducts and engine position have been repositioned in the 12th version of the jetpack, giving the pilot greater control.
It also has a new red paint job.
Mr Bowker, the test pilot, is apparently eager to push its limits. It can already reach a height of 1,500 metres and speeds of more than 70kph thanks to its 200 horsepower, twin-fan engine.
The jetpack itself is just over two metres in height, weighs 180kg while manned and can successfully lift off at a maximum weight of 330kg, leaving plenty of room to carry equipment or supplies.
Mr Coker is in no doubt that the company are on to a winning design. "We are about to enter a stage that is going to change the whole concept of light aircraft – this is the motorbike of the sky.
"We are now moving from being a research and development company to a commercial entity."
For those who cannot wait until 2015 to get a feel for the machine, Martin are also working on a "jetpack experience" simulation and training programme, that should begin by the end of the year.
It will give people the chance to learn how to operate the jetpack in a virtual environment.
Although the machine may seem like a toy for the wealthy, bosses at Martin believe their creation could have life-saving implications.
One idea is for a jetpack mounted on the back of a fire engine to be used by a crew member to scout hazardous areas before firefighters move in to quell the flames.
Additionally, given its manoeuvrability and portability, the machine could be used to rescue people stranded in difficult-to-reach areas.
Updated: August 21, 2013 04:00 AM