Martin Aircraft Company is developing a personal jetpack that could be in stores as early as 2014. The company is currently testing the aircraft, and it was approved to begin manned test flights.
The idea of a personal jetpack has fascinated many people for decades but has largely been relegated to the world of science fiction. However, the New Zealand–based company behind the Martin Jetpack are making it a reality. Martin Aircraft is currently testing the P12 prototype, which features a gasoline engine that powers the twin-ducted fans that are necessary for flight.
According to the manufacturer, the Martin Jetpack is safe for commercial and recreational use. The jetpack could also be used for emergency rescue operations or defense purposes, and Martin Aircraft says on its website that it plans to have an unmanned remote-control jetpack that can be in the near future.
The jetpack will cost more than a sensible family car as its price is more in line with some of the pricier luxury cars on the market today. Martin Aircraft hopes to price the jetpack at $100,000, but its debut may be some time away due to high development and manufacturing costs. The jetpack will be confined to non-urban airspace for the time being, but the company says it will be the first personal aircraft that can travel for extended periods of time, reach a reasonable speed and will be easy to fly. Safety measures include a “rapid deploying parachute, roll cage structure and shock absorbing undercarriage.” A training program will also be offered by the company to prepare new jetpack pilots for their first flights.
The next step for Martin Aircraft is to test the P12 in a series of manned flights, Agence-France Presse reported. Aviation regulators in New Zealand approved the manned test flights, and Peter Coker, Martin Aircraft’s chief executive, told the AFP the permit is a “very important step because it moves it out of what I call a dream into something which I believe we're now in a position to commercialize and take forward very quickly.” An unmanned jetpack reached heights of 1,500 meters, or 5,000 feet, but the test flights will be limited to six meters, 20 feet, and 25 above water, the AFP said.
The jetpack was developed by Glenn Martin in his garage, and the P12 features several design innovations that allows the jetpack to maneuver better than its predecessors. Martin's first jetpacks could be ready by 2014, for military and emergency crew use, according to the AFP, while a consumer model may be available in 2015. Martin Aircraft expects an initial cost between $150,000 and $250,000, but over time the price could decrease to $100,000.
Martin started the project 30 years ago and said he had the idea for a jetpack from shows such as “Thunderbirds” and “Lost in Space.” A video of the Martin Jetpack in action can be viewed below.