Unlike the many vaunted but commercially unsuccessful jetpack designs of the past, this jetpack is not built on wishful thinking. It has real practical utility, and buyers are already lining up to get their hands on one. A planned launch to kick off the release of the jetpack next year has some countries scrambling to write up rules and regulations for jetpack pilots. The technology is so imminent that New Zealand soon will be issuing jetpack pilot licenses.
The technology is the brainchild of Glenn Martin, a New Zealand inventor who was inspired to invent his jetpack after watching TV shows like "The Jetsons" as a kid. He has been hard at work perfecting the design since the early 1980s, and has remortgaged his house at least three times just to finance his efforts.
The result of all that dedication is the Martin Jetpack, which purportedly can travel up to 7,000 feet in the air and move at speeds up to 50 mph. It runs for about a half hour before needing to be refueled, and you won't need to purchase rocket fuel to operate it. It runs on regular gasoline. Gas stations may soon need to consider installing jetpack landing pads.
Actually, calling it a jetpack is a bit of a misnomer. It looks and functions like a jetpack, but it is not propelled by a jet engine. Rather, it is driven by twin-ducted fans. When you see the jetpack operate, however, you'll shrug off this difference as a technicality.
Currently the price tag to purchase your own jetpack is understandably steep, about $150,000. Several dozen already have been ordered, however, including 10 in the United States. In fact, regulators in the U.S. are debating how to handle the new technology. The jetpack was designed to fit within regulations already in place for ultralight pilots, which means users may not necessarily need a pilot's license if that designation sticks.
"Meeting regulatory requirements especially as this machine does not fit any of the present environment of aviation vehicles is something we are very aware of," said Peter Coker, chief executive officer for Martin Aircraft.
The mere fact that governments are seriously talking about issuing jetpack licenses is encouraging for enthusiasts. Though there remains a number of things to work out, it means jetpacks really are here. It may not be long before people actually get around via jetpack.
Of course, the design is still a ways off from offering people a sensible mode of transportation. It's doubtful anyone will be commuting to work with their jetpacks any time soon. But it's possible that jetpacks could have a more immediate use for emergency response officers.
You can view the jetpacks in action in the following video report provided by the Wall Street Journal: