N.Z. inventor readies 'jetski for the skies'

Jun 07, 2011 by Neil Sands
The jetpack, which has taken 30 years to develop, is expected to be commercially available in the next 18 months.

Whizzing around with your own personal jetpack may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but New Zealand inventor Glenn Martin aims to have his "jetski for the skies" on the market within 18 months.

After 30 years of painstaking development, Martin's last month soared 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) above the South Island's Canterbury Plains as its creator watched anxiously from a helicopter hovering nearby.

The May 21 flight, featuring a remote-controlled jetpack carrying a dummy pilot, was a milestone in Martin's dream of building the world's first practical jetpack.

"The first people using these in cities will be medical personnel doing emergency response," he said.

"Then you'll see people putting camera mounts on them for traffic reporting and it will eventually evolve into people just flying for fun or going to work."

Inspired by childhood television shows such as "Thunderbirds" and "Lost in Space", Martin set out in the early 1980s to create a jetpack suitable for everyday use by ordinary people with no specialist pilot training.

"I've wanted one from the age of five and was disappointed they weren't available and thought 'if it's not around, you've got to make it'," he told AFP at his factory in Christchurch industrial estate.

He said large commercial customers should be flying the jetpack, which is still undergoing final testing, by the end of the year and he hoped to make it publicly available in 2012 at a cost of about $US100,000.

Time magazine named Martin's creation as one of the world's most anticipated inventions late last year but he is acutely aware that the quest for a working jetpack has been littered with failure.

Probably the best known is the Bell Rocket Belt, which featured in the James Bond movie "Thunderball", but could only fly for 30 seconds and is now gathering dust at the Smithsonian Institution in the United States.

Swiss pilot Yves Rossey has also developed a jet-powered wing that straps to his back, although using it involves leaping from a flying plane.

Martin's jetpack -- which Time likened to two enormous leaf blowers welded together -- is much larger than its predecessors, consisting of a pair of cylinders containing propulsion fans attached to a free-standing carbon-fibre frame.

The pilot backs into the frame, straps himself in and controls the wingless jetpack with two joysticks

Inspired by childhood television shows such as "Thunderbirds" and "Lost in Space", Glenn Martin (pictured) set out in the early 1980s to create a jetpack suitable for everyday use by ordinary people with no specialist pilot training.

Powered by a two-litre V4 engine generating about 200 horsepower, the concept as explained by Martin is simple: "If you shoot enough air down fast enough, then you'll go up."

Fine-tuning details to turn the idea into a safe, workable flying machine has taken decades.

After numerous prototypes, the model that Martin hopes to put into production is designed to meet US ultralight standards, weighing less than 115 kilograms (254 pounds) and carrying a 20 litre (4.5 gallon) fuel tank.

That theoretically gives it a 30 minute flight time and a range of 50 kilometres (31 miles), although he said work was already underway on versions with extended capabilities.

Martin says flying the machine can be mastered in less than an hour. It has a rocket-propelled parachute if anything goes wrong.

Importantly, Martin said it runs off ordinary petrol "so you can fly into your local gas station, fill her up, grab a pie and a Coke and then fly off".

That vision may take some time to come to fruition, as current US laws bar ultralights from flying over built up areas, but Martin said it would eventually become reality.

He said he had been stunned by the international reaction since the jetpack made a public debut with a brief flight at a US airshow in 2008.

What began as a dream of creating a fun for adrenaline junkies -- the jetski of the skies -- has transformed into a project he believes could match the helicopter in revolutionising aviation.

"We've been approached by I think five different militaries (and) about six different governments," he said, declining to name potential clients for confidentiality reasons.

"People are looking at using this in border patrol around a lot of the sensitive borders in the world.

"We've got one large search and rescue organisation that wants 500 for after earthquakes and tsunamis and those sorts of things, where the roads are beaten up and you're struggling to get helicopters down."

After 30 years during which he mortgaged his house and became weary of being seen as "the crazy guy in the workshop", Martin now employs a core of eight staff in his factory and is confident of commercial success.

"If you've got a small team you can achieve something, if you've got a team of 2,000, it can be difficult," he said.

"All of the great innovations in aviation have been done by a small team of people, starting back with the Wright brothers, who did it in their bicycle shop in Dayton Ohio."

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User comments : 21

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Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2011
I wonder what's the 'flotation device for the skies' that will be required, like on a personal watercraft?
Nik_2213
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
Doug, according to the schematic, safety equipment includes an ejectable parachute...

Technically, this is a ducted-fan mini-helicopter rather than that mega-scary 'rocket belt' beloved of stunt-men...
TBW
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
This looks amazing, I wish the video worked.
Foundation
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
The video does work, and it shows the deployment of the safety parachute.
epsi00
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
This looks amazing, I wish the video worked.


you need to allow java script in your browser to get the video to work.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
540kg of static thrust, it weighs 242 kg meaning you have about 298kg to work with before you can't get off the ground.

Not bad.
LKD
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
Really fascinating. I can't wait to see the future models which will be lighter, smaller, more efficient, carbon fibre. I'm not getting my flying car, but at least I can see a day when I can fly places. :)
EdMoore
5 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2011
I hope he becomes a billionaire .... he deserves it.
macsglen
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
"Martin says flying the machine can be mastered in less than an hour."

If no one has flown it, how does he know?
fixer
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
I imagine he has done all the standard lift, hover and land tests before going public.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
Beyond possible applications in police/rescue work,I can't see this thing selling in large numbers.It appears to be noisy as hell,and as reported in the article,as an ultralight,it wouldn't be allowed to be flown over built up areas in the U.S. It also is a grossly inefficient way to fly,hardly ecologically sound.Much better to invest in a battery powered ultralight fixed wing aircraft. For example,see this site: http://www.electr...ndex.php
Beard
not rated yet Jun 08, 2011
I would rather use this design if it's viable:
www.youtube.com/w...mx71DqfQ

Or if he can make his electric and noiseless.
Some kind of failsafe for the take off/landing altitudes where the parachute is useless would be nice. Something like an airbag that surrounds you.

Super construction materials like graphene, along with better batteries would allow superior designs.
LKD
not rated yet Jun 08, 2011
Or if he can make his electric and noiseless.


That's not possible as batteries require the addition of too much weight and not enough longevity. Batteries just aren't developed enough to consider their use.
Newbeak
5 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2011
Or if he can make his electric and noiseless.


That's not possible as batteries require the addition of too much weight and not enough longevity. Batteries just aren't developed enough to consider their use.

I have to agree.It crossed my mind someone would suggest that,but as you said,it would make for a very short flight time with current battery technology.
However,the proposed Puffin aircraft would probably work for short flights right now,as it's props create lift by their aerodynamic shape,and the thing transitions to horizontal flight,as opposed to the much more inefficient jet pack that flies due to the reaction mass of air expelled from the engine cowlings.
Moebius
not rated yet Jun 12, 2011
Pie in the sky. I would be very surprised if this see's anything more than a very small niche use. It will not be allowed in cities except by a very small number of people if at all. Nobody wants 400 pound rocks floating over their heads.

Look at the Segway. Perfectly safe, functional and can't fall from the sky and kill people yet it isn't allowed hardly anywhere.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2011
From the picture, I thought he was driving a toilet.

Get rid of the person driving the thing and replace him with a computer and you might just have something that someone somewhere might sometimes use to do something unusual, or something.

Kaplah!
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2011
"Or if he can make his electric and noiseless. " - beard

If he could make it edible it would be even better for things like disaster relief.

Just make the entire thing out of licorice, candy drops and magic pixie dust.

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2011
"540kg of static thrust, it weighs 242 kg meaning you have about 298kg to work with before you can't get off the ground." - w
whomever

Where are the grocery bag holders?

Here is a much better idea for personal mobility...

http://www.youtub...=related
poof
not rated yet Jun 14, 2011
Could this outrun a chopper? This would be a great getaway vehicle if it could. Just tack on an rpg and your gold.
Moebius
not rated yet Jun 15, 2011
It makes a ton of noise, can't go very high so it's easily spotted, lots and lots of them so you won't stand out owning one. Yeah, great getaway vehicle.
Newbeak
not rated yet Jun 16, 2011
"540kg of static thrust, it weighs 242 kg meaning you have about 298kg to work with before you can't get off the ground." - w
whomever

Where are the grocery bag holders?

Here is a much better idea for personal mobility...

http://www.youtub...=related

Yes,I have heard of this concept before,and it is brilliant in IMHO. It occurred to me that it could be built much more economically than a conventional monorail system.I found a FAQ section on the official Shweeb site: http://shweeb.com...m=faq#f1