Martin Jet Pack – the ultimate personal flying machine?

Martin Jetpack

The Martin Jetpack can have you in the air, flying 100 km per hour, and getting 50 km out of its 5 gallon tank. Your own personal flying machine.

Jet packs… they had one in Lost in Space. In the 1960s. Yes, it was just a TV show, but surely there should be some sort of Moore’s Law type of rule between the worlds of cheesey movie and TV sci-fi and real life , that dictates that by now we should all be jetpacking it here, jetpacking it there, jetpacking it everywhere. But no. We’re flat bang in a cesspool of jetpacklessness, mightily let down by the boffins. Or are we…

Cut to New Zealand, present day, real life. New Zealand, the land of sheep, rugby and chilly bins, and crazy extreme sports where you jump off high things, and roll down large hills in big plastic balls. Or, live the jetpack dream. Inventor Glenn Martin has been in research and development on his jetpack for 30 years.

In 1998 he founded the Martin Aircraft Company, with an aim of building “a jetpack that could fly 100 times longer than the 26 seconds of the Bell Rocket Belt”. The Bell was first flown in 1961, and is the device that really did popularise the jetpack in the 1960s and 70s, and even made an appearance at the 1984 Olympic Games opening ceremony. Indeed, it is the very model that appeared in Lost in Space. A thrilling concept was the Bell, but at 26 seconds the thrill passed all too quickly.

In 2005 Martin built his 9th prototype, and it is this model that you can buy and fly. It was at this point that Martin achieved the target flight time, and had the device at a point at which it could be commercially built.

How does it work?

The Jetpack has no rotors, and is designed to be torque neutral. It runs on a low vibration, V4 two stroke, 2 litre engine, giving 200 hp @ 6000 rpm – a motor developed from the ground up for the jetpack. There are two hand controls, one controlling pitch and roll, the other controlling yaw and the throttle. Safety features include a internal roll cage, a carbon kevlar hoop for side impact protection, and the structure extends below the level of the spine to prevent injury from a hard landing. Oh, and the machine has a Ballistic Parachute system, just in case of ‘catastrophic failure’.

It runs on standard petrol, and the 5 US gallon tank should carry you about 50 kilometres, at a speed of just over 100 kilometres per hour

Video demonstration

Video demonstration of the Martin Jetpack? Done. It’s a controlled indoor demonstration, I suspect the Martin Jetpack Company is still a little way off from demonstrating the jetpack at full speed in an outdoor environment.

UPDATE 30 MAY, 2011

This week the Martin Jet Pack was taken up to 5000 feet – here’s the video of the flight:

Who can fly the Martin Jetpack?

First thing you need to know is that in order to buy a Martin Jetpack, you are required to complete the Martin Aircraft Company approved training program before you can pick up your wondrous new toy.

Secondly, there is a body weight requirement. You must weigh more than 63.5 kg and less than 108.9 kg.

Whether or not you need a licence is dependent upon regulations for ultralight aircraft in your particular country. And you have to think that if this mode of transport does take off, governments worldwide will want to be stepping upo the regulatory aspects, for reasons of safety, and of potential revenue from licences.

If you’re thinking of getting a Martin Jetpack can I suggest that your research involve more from the Iron Man end of the spectrum than the Greatest American Hero. Actually, it’s a condition of purchase that you do a flying course, so you can go back to watching Iron Man as a movie instead of a documentary.

Martin Jetpack

Price and availability

Further to the paragraph above, “Who can fly the Martin Jetpack”, the first answer is, those with a good bank balance. James Bowker, the Martin Aircraft Company’s Simulation Engineer, tells me that “we estimate the initial sale price for the recreational version of the Martin Jetpack will be around US$100,000. We will be ready to take orders soon with deliveries from 2011”. You must pay a 10% deposit upfront to book your production slot, as apparently is standard in aviation circles, and then make progress payments throughout the manufacturing process.

All going well, oder taken, production line fine-tuned, the company would expect the price to drop, “from an initial cost will be about the same as a high-end motorcycle or car. As volume increases this will drop to be similar to a mid-range motorcycle or car.”

And the the time period from order time to delivery? Approximately 12 months.

The future of jetpacks

How do Martin see the future of jetpacks? From their website:

“Some people will use these for work; most of us will not be able to do this for some time. The automobile has too many advantages for most people, some still ride motorcycles, but the majority prefer the comfort of a car. In addition, with the current air traffic control system commuting would not be possible. The US FAA is currently developing a “highways in the sky” technology; basically 3D highways based on automated GPS tracks. Initial tests have been positive but the full system is not likely to be implemented for at least 10 years.”

If I learnt nothing else from researching this, I found it incredibly interesting that the US FAA is looking at getting ready for a Blade Runner-type transporting future.

Specifications

  • Structure: Carbon fibre composite
  • Empty weight: 250 lbs (excluding safety equipment)
  • Gross weight: 535 lbs
  • Useful (pilot) load: 280 lbs+
  • Maximum thrust: 600 lbs+
  • Fuel capacity: 5 US gallons (as required by FAA Part 103, Ultralight Regulations)
  • Fuel burn: 10.0 gph
  • Engine: Martin Aircraft 2.0 L V4 2 stroke, rated at 200 hp (150 kw). Max. 6000 rpm.
  • Electrical system: 12 V DC battery, starter, 360 w alternator.
  • Rotor: Carbon / Kevlar composite diameter 1.7 ft
  • Range: 31.5 miles (at max speed of 63 mph as required by FAA part 103).
  • Hover in ground effect: 8000 ft (estimated)
  • Hover above ground effect: 8000 ft (estimated)
  • Standard Equipment: Flight and engine displays, harness, ballistic parachute, retractable undercarriage, energy absorbing undercarriage.