It doesn’t look much like a jetpack, does it? More like some far flung future mini-jet plane, the rounded nose pointed skyward, twin turbine-like 200hp engines strapped to either side, and you secured below, hanging out like the payload. It’s relatively small (and thus easy to deploy if you need to get in and out of small spaces), has an auto-hover feature, and includes both flotation capabilities and a ballistic recovery parachute that auto-deploys if the engines go kaput. It’ll probably cruise at 35 m.p.h. (with a top speed around 45 m.p.h.) and be able to travel a little under 20 miles (or 30 minutes) a shot.
Meet the P12. That’s what New Zealand’s Martin Aircraft calls it, probably because it’s the 12th prototype of something the company refers to on its website as “the first practical jetpack.” It sports a custom gas-powered engine and twin-ducted fans able to lift it and its human cargo up, up and away. There’s also an unmanned version the company says “will lift more than most vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicles,” which is perhaps another way of saying “heavy-lift drone.”
Practical, yes. Personal? Eventually. While Martin Aircraft says it began development of the jetpack with leisure use in mind (and an estimated price tag of $100,000 — sorry, most people on the planet), commercial demand was strong enough that the company is now looking to sell this thing out the door to emergency first responders, say firefighters, reports Aviation Week (via KurzweilAI). The list could grow to include civil defense operations like counter-terrorism, border patrol and delivery of medical supplies, or military ones like mobile surveillance, communications relaying and rapid insertion maneuvers. If you want to take one for a spin, Martin Aircraft says it’s pitching the backpack to recreational buyers as well, say companies that might offer jetpack excursions or tours.
Commercial availability? Look for the P12 (or whatever it winds up being called) in 2014.