Leigh Coates says that when you sprint through the air with a jetpack, you think you’re flying like a superhero.
“It’s an incredible feeling. You really feel like you’re flying. But it’s really hard to use in the beginning,” says Veteran helicopter pilot Coates.
The idea of flying with a jetpack first entered the minds of humanity in the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball.
In those years, super spy James Bond, played by Sean Connery, was escaping from the roof of a French chateau, which he climbed while being chased by two armed men, wearing a rocket on his back and flying.
The jetpack used in this dramatic scene at the opening of the movie was a “human rocket” manufactured by Bell-Textron for the US military.
The US military eventually decided that the rocket was too dangerous to use, but it was successfully used by Sean Connery, or at least his stunt double, in 007.
After 56 years, jetpack technology has advanced considerably, and the device has been trialled for use in a number of different scenarios, such as sending rescue personnel in an emergency or military defence.
An impressive video released last month shows the Marines using the jetpack in a landing operation. This makes it unnecessary to use ropes for landing from helicopters.
But there is little talk of the use of jetpacks for personal use for pleasure.
Observers often point to potential issues ranging from safety to environmental concerns. After all, you are flying with a jet rocket placed on your back. Many questions, such as what kind of rules its use should be subject to, how air traffic will be controlled, occupy the minds.
But two companies, one in the US and one in the UK, allow ordinary people to try the jetpack for a fee, but with a precaution. These individuals fly by wired to a large metal structure on the ground to prevent them from flying away uncontrollably.
Can it become popular?
“I think this technology will be used in a number of specific situations before it is adopted more broadly,” says Benjamin Akih, associate professor of aerospace engineering at Syracuse University in New York.
“Firefighters, first aid and rescue personnel or possibly law enforcement may use it. The use of jetpacks in such special situations will also encourage their use for personal travel or recreational purposes.”
Daniel Levine, an expert at the Avant-Guide Institute, a New York-based travel and consumer trends consulting firm, said that mass-production of jetpacks is unlikely, but that more tailor-made, terribly expensive “packet experience”-style things will increase, and that after a while, users will have to put cables on the ground. He thinks that he will also give up his attachment.
“I think in the next five years, adventure enthusiasts with pockets will be able to rent jetpacks and travel in some countries where insurance companies do not prevent them. I think it might be in Dubai, for example. When technology becomes simple enough for ordinary people to use, the use of personal flight vehicles, especially for adventure purposes, will increase. “
California-based Jetpack Aviation, now an established company for jetpacks, was founded in 2015. The company produced a number of different models of the “JB” series of jetpacks.
In addition to its military and emergency use possibilities, the company allows ordinary people to train to operate the JB10 model, which has been approved by the federal authorities. This is a kerosene- and diesel-powered twin-turbojet jetpack.
David Mayman, founder and CEO of the company, says they have not been able to cope with the interest in the two-day cable flight training program.
“We’ve far exceeded the number of people we can take in. There’s a crazy amount of interest,” he says.
According to Mayman, it’s easy to fly a jetpack, which his company calls a “solo voyage in the sky.” The pilot controls movement and speed with his right hand and direction with his left hand.
Meanwhile, a computer screen provides the user with information on fuel level, engine, exhaust temperature and battery condition.
“Any average person in terms of health and size can fly without any problems. I say this from the people we’ve trained so far. You definitely don’t have to have aviator training or be a pilot. Sometimes these traits even become an obstacle because they have to do a lot of things differently. can,” he says.
Jetpack Aviation has trained 80 people so far. Mayman says that many entrepreneurs who want to organize adventure flights in countries such as Japan and Australia have contacted him.
It may be easy, but jetpack flight training isn’t cheap. The company charges about $5,000 for two days of training.
“It’s a costly business for us because the technology is expensive. But I think it might get cheaper over time with technological advances,” says Mayman, CEO of Jetpack Aviation.
In the UK, this business is run by a competitor, Gravity Industries. They likewise make anyone take a jetpack for a fee. Sure, with security cables.
Rocket flying competitions coming soon
Both Gravity, which manufactures jetpacks for the Royal Marines unit of the British Army, and JetPack Aviation have also announced that they will start organizing races. It was also announced that these races will be held on water for safety reasons.
Gravity had planned to hold the first race in Bermuda in 2020, but these plans were put on hold due to the Covid pandemic.
The company’s founder, former Marine Corps reserve officer and one-time oil trader Richard Browning, says the planned races will also likely include training commoners for the competition.
“We like it to be a very natural progression, but we think we’re going to have to train a lot of people in the public. These are usually wealthy charismatic women and men. When the training is complete, we want to meet in prestigious places like Monaco or the San Francisco Bay area. We’ll have jetpacks in the company’s colors ready for them. “
“The race will probably be like jetpacked racers doing some maneuvers, circumnavigating some of the masts, during the flight time, which is now about five or six minutes,” Browning describes.
“This can be repeated every two to three months in different and beautiful places. That’s the pattern we’re thinking of. We want to show action rather than just having ideas,” he adds.
One of those who want to participate in the races organized by Gravity Industries is retired helicopter pilot Leigh Coates, whom we talked about at the beginning. She is also the first woman to fly without safety wires on Gravity’s jetpack in 2019.
She had previously flown with safety cables with the JetPack Aviation jetpack in 2018 and became the first woman to use this company’s flight device.
“Flying a jetpack was my childhood dream,” says Coates, who lives in Alaska. “As soon as I heard about these companies, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.”