Man has always desired to follow the example set by the birds and take off into the heavens. Daedalus and Icarus managed it back in Ancient Greece (to varying degrees of success), but for modern non-mythological members of the public, the secrets of personalized flight have so far escaped us. That is, perhaps, until now.
A New Zealand inventor and entrepreneur, Glenn Martin, has just taken a major step in creating efficient and commercial personalized 'jet packs' - finally bringing a staple of science fiction into the world of science fact.
The World's First Commercially Available Jetpack?
On Tuesday, Glenn Martin, who first started working on the concept of a jetpack 34 years ago, listed his company, Martin Aircrafts, with the Australian Stock Exchange, therefore turning a life-long obsession into a possibly viable enterprise.
With a presence on the stock market, and an investment of A$21 million from the Hong Kong based KuangChi Science, Martin Aircraft has stated it can now "focus 100% on the commercialization of the jetpack."
However, it hasn't always been clean sailing (or hovering) for Glenn Martin. Back in 2008, he unveiled his prototype product at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, it was met with a rather large degree of ridicule and negativity - primarily because it only managed to hover three feet above the ground.
In an interview with the New Zealand current affairs show Sunday, Martin explained how he took this negativity and used it to fuel his future endeavors, stating:
You spend 28 years of your life developing something and I made no claims about it ... I just wanted to go to Oshkosh and introduce it to the aviation world. And then all these people came in and started getting negative about it and it is very hurtful. [But] it just makes you more determined.
Now, in 2015, the Martin Jetpack has developed far beyond what the world saw in 2008. The current model is able to fly for around 30 minutes at the speed of 74km/h and up to an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,000 ft.).
How Does It Work?
In reality, the Martin Jetpack is not technically a jetpack since it does not utilize jet power. Instead, Martin describes it as more of a 'helicopter backpack' which uses two carbon fiber fans for propulsion. The issue with traditional jetpacks is that the weight of fuel very quickly becomes a major issue - limiting flight to mere seconds. One way around this is to tether the pack via a hose to a static fuel supply on the ground, although clearly this kind of defeats the point of a jetpack.
Alternatively, the carbon kevlar fans of the Martin jetpack can provide more lift for the amount of fuel carried. Furthermore, the fans are wider at the inlet than the outlet, creating a funnel that pushes air through at a higher speed. The jetpack can then return safely to Earth with the help of a parachute. Check out a prototype of the Martin Jetpack in action below:
The low weight to power ratio means Martin has been able to extend the flight time up to 30 minutes, meaning it could practically be used in certain fields. Initially, Martin expects the first commercial models to be made available to rescue and emergency services in 2016.
How Much Will It Cost And When Can I Get One?
The new CEO of Martin Aircraft, Peter Coker, believes the jetpack could revolutionize air travel in the same way as the helicopter. He told The Guardian:
This is a bit like when the helicopter first came in, and everyone said it would never work, that it only flew for 10 minutes, that it was disastrous in some respects. But now you look at the helicopter around the world, and that’s changed something -– we’re going to do exactly the same.
The latest model, the P12, has already passed muster with the Civil Aviation Authority for New Zealand, meaning there is no further legal red-tape which could prevent the jetpack from taking off. Martin Aircraft believes the first publicly available models will arrive in 2017, and will retail for around A$250,000 ($194,000). However, Martin Aircraft claims it has already taken some advanced orders.
In a statement following the company's entry into the stock market, Coker claimed:
Commercial Jetpacks are no longer the domain of science fiction. The dream of Glenn Martin to create a commercial Jetpack is about to be realized.