After a record-breaking test flight this past week, Glenn Martin's personal jetpack, a project that's been in development for more than a decade, could soon hit shelves at a store near you. And it'll only run you about $75,000.
Just about anybody could use what will be the first commercial jetpack, according to Martin. (That is, if you're able to get your hands on one: More than 2,500 people are on a waiting list.) "You just strap it on and rev the nuts out of it and it lifts you up off the ground," Martin told a reporter for the Daily Mail after completing a seven-minute outdoor flight with his team by remote control. "It's just basic physics. As Newton said, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So when you shoot lots of air down very fast you go up and you're flying." Even though it doesn't require much skill, it's unclear how the aviation industry will respond to the pack. Because it only weighs 250 pounds, customers in most countries won't require a license; the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has yet to make a decision as to the product's legality. Either way, Martin's company will require all owners to participate in a training program before they can fly.
Martin first unveiled his jetpack at the 2008 U.S. airshow, but at the time it couldn't go more than six feet off the ground or fly for even one full minute. At this most recent test, Martin's pack reached altitudes of more than 100 feet (a dummy, Jetson, was along for the ride) thanks to a two-liter 200-horsepower gasoline engine. The engine, which powers two fans at 6,000rpm, can push the pack to 160 feet and speeds of up to 60mph. It carries enough fuel to keep a passenger in-flight for up to 30 minutes.
While it's easy to imagine yourself strapped onto the personal jetpack's seat, cruising high above the cars trapped on the freeway leading into the office, Martin's invention will probably be used first by the U.S. military as a way to patrol borders or reach hard-to-access areas. The U.S. military has been testing jetpacks since the 1960s, when the predecessor to Martin's jetpack, the Bell Rocket Belt, was seen in the James Bond movie Thunderball. Martin, too, saw that pack and was determined to build something that could fly 100 times longer than the Belt's 28 seconds. Mission accomplished.