A real-life jetpack passed a key milestone this month by flying nearly a mile-high and soaring back to earth safely with an emergency parachute.
The test-flight of the Martin Aircraft jetpack is bringing the $100,000 device one step closer.
The jetpack is approximately five feet high and weighs about 535 pounds when loaded with safety equipment and fuel.
This successful test brings the future another step closer, Glenn Martin, the jetpack's inventor and founder of the New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Co., said.
The device is not what one could expect. It doesn't shoot flames out the back, but instead it's a fan-driven device, like a propeller plane. Martin Aircraft says the previous altitude record for the fan-driven, wearable aircraft was 50 feet (15 meters), making this flight a 100 times higher.
A dummy weighing as much as a human operator was put into the jetpack. The contraption was radio-controlled from a helicopter flying nearby.
While this version packs enough fuel to fly for at least 30 minutes, the operators purposely cut off the engines at an altitude of 3,000 feet (900 meters) to test emergency functions.
At that point, ballistic parachute popped out to slow the rate of fall. The jetpack hit the ground with a velocity of 15.7 mph (25.2 kilometers per hour), Martin Aircraft reported.
The aircraft sustained some damage on impact, but we would expect that it is likely a pilot would have walked away from this emergency landing, the company said. It could have gone 1,000 feet per minute if it hadn't had to keep pace with the helicopter that was following it, according to the company.
The jetpack pushed the envelope for climb rate (800 feet per minute or 4 meters per second, with the capability to rise even faster) and flight duration (9 minutes and 46 seconds).
This test also validated our flight model, proved thrust to weight ratio and proved our ability to fly a jetpack as an unmanned aerial vehicle, which will be key to some of the jetpack's future emergency/search and rescue and military applications, Glenn Martin said.
Martin Aircraft is expecting the military to be the first customers, and emergency response teams as well. Martin also anticipates operating costs will be about 90% less than a helicopter's and the range of accessible areas will go up. The company is aiming for a cost of entry under US$100,000.