James Bond, Star Wars, the Rocketeer, even the Jetsons – we’ve been seeing jet packs announced and dreamed about for years. Similar to flying cars, people in the past thought by now everyone would be using them.
And – wouldn’t you like to have one yourself? Below are some jetpacks that you can hire or even buy… Read on for more detail.
So, what are the issues? Why don’t we fly to work every day propelled by a powerful jet that would make our commute the best part of the day?
- Overcoming gravity requires a lot of energy. Anything that wants to lift off and fly (like planes and rockets) will need a lot of fuel to achieve this.
Needing more energy for the take-off means also needing more fuel, which means more weight, which in turn means more energy needed to lift the jetpack away from the surface. The fuel would have to contain a lot of energy. Currently available fuels are just not efficient, safe and affordable enough for mainstream use.
- Pollution through high-energy fuel reactions. Assuming as many people could afford jetpacks as have cars now, just imagine the CO2 emissions resulting from all the jetpacks. It’s not a pretty thought.
- Steering, stabilisation and control of the jetpack. As the human body is basically a dead weight which does not contribute anything to the flying in all its complexity, just flying it around is a lot harder than it sounds. You wouldn’t want to wobble through the air and possibly bump into buildings or other people wobbling around.
- Safety – What if your engine fails mid-air? Most likely you’d have to take a parachute (adding more weight again). Also, if you do crash into something or someone, the resulting fall will be a lot more dangerous than if you’re on the ground already.
- Which leads us to the final point: Regulation and control of the airspace. This includes issues like, who is allowed to fly and when? Would you need to go through some sort of pilot training, get a license? What about right of way in the air? How do you ensure that jetpacks and planes don’t get into each other’s way?
But don’t despair, jetpacks ARE around today, and some of them you can even fly!
- Hydro jetpacks – the most accessible option to make your dream of flying a jetpack come true. They work by using water as fuel, solving the problem of needing a lot by staying connected with a hose; an example is the popular JetLev that can be seen in the video below. Many hydro jet pack rental businesses are operating in various locations around the world today.
- SAFER (short for “Simplified Aid for Extravehicular Activity Rescue”), a jetpack worn by astronauts for spacewalks (e.g. outside the ISS) for emergencies. As it is used in space, it doesn’t have to overcome gravity which makes it a lot cheaper to use.
- The TAM Rocket Belt. Its top speed is around 100km/h (60mph), and it flies for about 30 seconds. Depending on the pilot’s weight, it will weigh between 56 and 63kg (124-139lb). Including training, buying one for yourself will set you back around $250,000.
- The Jet Pack H202-Z by Jetpack International is a bit faster, it reaches up to 123km/h (77mph) and stays in the air for a full 33 seconds. It carries up to 20l (5.3gal) of fuel and “only” costs $155,000 including training. JetPI are currently working on its successor which they give the codename “Falcon”, but at this stage it is unclear when this will be available.
- The Troy Hartman Jetpack – this one is not commercially available, but it’s still cool. Built by “professional aerial stuntman and adventurer” Troy Hartman, it reached quite a bit of popularity online. The jetpack reaches speeds of 100km/h (60mph) and cost Troy about $40,000 to build. It weighs 32kg (70lb) with a full tank; half that when empty. Plans are to evolve the design so it won’t need a parachute any more to lift off. Also, with a new design in July 2014 Troy managed a total air time of 15 minutes, using 19l (5gal) of fuel.
- Yves Rossy’s jet wing. He overcomes the gravity problem by not even trying to lift off using the jetpack, but jumps from a plane and just uses the jetpack to fly. Using this strategy gives him about 10 minutes of air time with an average speed of 200km/h, enough to have successfully crossed the English Channel from Calais, France to Dover, England in just over 9 minutes. The jetpack also uses foldable wings for stabilisation. With a full tank of 30l (8gal), it weighs about 55kg (121lb). The jet wing cost Yves about $190,000 to build.
- Last but not least, the Martin Jetpack – this one could be yours soon, although the company targets emergency services. With top speeds of 74km/h (46mph), and a fuel capacity of 45l (12gal) it promises a flight time of up to 30 minutes. It does weigh 180kg (400lbs) though. Currently the website Martin Aircraft Company plans to sell it for $215,000 from 2016.
Over to you
Tell us what you think about jetpacks in the comments below!
- Daily Mail article on the Martin Jetpack (20 Nov 2014)
- Guardian article on why we don’t have jetpacks yet (23 September 2014)
- How Jet Packs Work
- TAM Rocket Belt and Jet Pack H202 compared
- Technical information about SAFER
- and websites linked above