It’s here: the per­sonal jet­pack

The Star Early Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - De­nis Droppa

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 ground­bound 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 of 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, 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 re­quired to de­ter­mine whether one would need a pi­lot’s li­cence to op­er­ate one.

Still, we reckon it’s the coolest way to com­mute.

Watch a video of the jet­pack in ac­tion on https://goo.gl/ot1iwX

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