Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where's My Jetpack?

Short answer: in New Zealand, but they'll send one anywhere, for money.

Long answer: The Martin Jetpack, produced by a Christchurch, New Zealand company, has a "is capable of reaching heights of about 2400 metres and can travel up to 100kmh but further safety testing is required before it [sic] ready for commercial production."* The jetpack's actually been around since 2008, but so far it's only been available to commercial customers. That's about to change, though.

From their site:
It is expected that early orders for sales to private individuals will commence late 2010. If you would like to register your interest in purchasing a Jetpack for private use, please do so through our contact page. We will note your details and contact you when pre orders are being taken.
(bolding mine)

Careful, though:
Martin Aircraft has built several prototypes so we have a good idea how much they cost to manufacture. Depending on production volume, the initial cost will be about the same as a high-end motorcycle or car. As volume increases this will drop to be similar to a mid-range motorcycle or car.
Not quite sure how much that comes to, because my various sources say $75,000, $90,000, and $100,000, but hey, I … guess it's affordable? And it's classifed as an ultra-light aircraft in the U.S., so you don't even need a pilot's license. (Speaking of pilots, Martin Aircraft is now working with an unidentifed international aircraft company.**)

Super-long answer: available at PhysOrg
Super-long answer with speculation: available at io9

What mostly concerns me is that this runs on standard gasoline, which means 1. exhaust fumes and 2. it's not as green as some people might like. Even if we find a way to do the same thing with biofuel, I'd be worried about arriving at the office smelling like the back end of a car. (I worry the same about motorcycles, though.)

What concerns me secondarily is how bulky the thing seems. Where are you going to store it? How much is it going to mess with our back and neck muscles?

What concerns me thirdly is the cost. How can we have that beautiful future we were promised, of people zipping through the air and few cars on the ground, when they cost that much money? I know, I know, "same price as a car", but if we're going to encourage the jetpack, I'd like the cost to be less than a car.

Not that I'm not excited. I totally am. I imagine people flying into gas stations and unnerving attendants, and I imagine a hilarious conversation starting with, "I'd like to take out a loan so I can buy a jetpack." If I didn't think I'd be too afraid of the heights and speeds, and if I thought I could afford it,*** I'd probably buy one.

I think io9 covered most of the immediate speculation on this subject, so I'll defer to them, but with one addition: now that we've got workable jetpack technology, can we convert it into a flying car?
** I'm hoping for Bombardier. It's my patriotic duty, eh?
*** Me? On a retail/writer's salary? In this city? Pfft. Maybe next millennium.


Anonymous said...

The real question with Jetpacks is how do you land? There are no breaks! The US military experimented with them for a bit but after what happened to the first test piolet they stopped. Think about it: You are going really fast, you try and land....*Squish*

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