From the mythological tale of Daedelus, who fashioned wings for himself and his son, Icarus, to the rocket science-inspired jet packs of the 20th century, people have been dreaming of personal flight since the beginning of time. Now it seems that dream has actually come to fruition. The world's first practical, consumer-ready jet pack is finally here.
It's called the Jetlev-Flyer, and it can now be yours for the modest sum of £110,000 ($179,155.90), according to the Daily Mail. It also works a bit differently than you might imagine. The Jetlev-Flyer isn't propelled by rocket fuel or compressed air; it's propelled by water.
Here's how it works. Unlike the conventional idea of a jet pack — which has the inherent problem of how to safely strap fuel and a propulsion engine to a person's back — the developers of the Jetlev-Flyer put the propulsion engine, fuel and related systems on a separate vessel that is tethered behind the jetpack and trails along during flight in the water.
Since it is water-powered and designed for flight over water, the propellant is abundant and free. And because water has such a high density compared to gasses, it can carry vast amounts of power at much lower velocities, making it an unconventional, but more effective, propellant.
The engine itself is a 4-stroke, and the flight controls are simple, light and intuitive, according to the Jetlev-Flyer website. Take a look at this promo video of the Jetlev-Flyer in action to get a sense for how it flies:
It looks like something straight out of a James Bond movie, and its developers hope it will inspire a new generation of water sports. Under its standard design, the Jetlev-Flyer allows pilots to reach altitudes of up to 10 meters and reach top speeds of about 35 kilometers per hour, with a cruising duration of 2-3 hours. Of course, future designs could achieve higher altitudes, speeds, ranges, and even allow for travel below the water's surface.
For those concerned about safety, the technology has been in development for more than 10 years and its developers have added a number of key safety features. It is equipped with a five-point quick-release harness, and the throttle and nozzle pitch controls are designed to stay at settings that protect riders from inadvertent falls when the throttle grip is released. Since it is tethered at a limited distance from the engine, height is restricted to safe levels in case of a fall. (And if you did fall, it would be into water.) The Jetlev developers advise against ever flying over shallow water, just in case.
Don't worry if you can't afford the Jetlev-Flyer just yet because it could become a fixture at holiday resorts soon. Who knows, before long it could become a fanciful way to island hop around the world's archipelagos.