What adventurous youngster (or young-at-heart adult) hasn't dreamt of zooming around with a jetpack strapped to their back, soaring with the birds instead of being ground-bound on wheels?
A company called Jetpack Aviation aims to bring this fantasy closer to mainstream reality with its JB-10 Jetpack.
The concept of strapping a thruster to your back to get around isn't new, and ever since the first science fiction writers dreamed up this type of personal flight many decades ago, the idea's captured the public’s imagination.
Many working jetpacks have since been demonstrated in shows, including famously during the opening ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games. However, these devices have either been impractically large or had high fuel consumption which limited flying time to around 30 seconds.
But Jetpack Aviation aims to make this 'rapid short distance transportation vehicle' a more viable means of personal transport with its greatly improved range and compact size.
"Like the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, Jetpack Aviation is standing at the dawn of a brand new industry," the company website boldly proclaims.
A touch of hyperbole perhaps, but JetPack Aviation says the jet turbine powered JB-10 offers a flight time over 10 minutes, depending on pilot weight, and can reach horizontal speeds of more than 200km/h. It's also compact enough to fit inside the boot of a small car.
This could make it handy for nipping off to buy takeaway pizza when the traffic's gridlocked. More seriously, a jetpack could have many practical applications including being used by rescue workers at disaster scenes that are inaccessible by traditional vehicles.
Running on kerosene and using two jet turbine engines, the JB-10 is able to rise at a claimed rate of 1000 feet (304 metres) a minute. The engines mix ambient air with their exhaust gases to bring temperatures down to a comfortably warm airstream.
"We believe a JetPack should be just that – a jet turbine powered backpack that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), is extremely light and small and can easily be carried around by the pilot," says Australian businessman David Mayman who heads up the project.
"It should be powerful enough to lift the pilot quickly to thousands of feet above the ground but small enough to fit into the trunk of a car."
After many years in development the JB-10 jetpack will go on sale around April or May, with Jetpack Aviation providing training on how to pilot it. Pricing hasn't been announced but it's safe to say it won't be cheap.
There's also some legislative red tape to determine whether one would need a pilot's licence to operate one.
- IOL Motoring