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Practical Jetpack Available "Soon" 237

Posted by kdawson
from the coolest-desire-left-to-mankind dept.
Ifandbut was one of several readers to point out the arrival in Oshkosh of the first practical jetpack. It was invented by a New Zealander Glenn Martin, who has been working on the idea for 27 years. He plans to sell the gizmos for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100K. While previous attempts at jetpacks have flown for at most a couple of minutes, Mr. Martin's invention can stay aloft for half an hour. Both "practical" and "jetpack" may need quotation marks, however: The device is huge and it's incredibly noisy. And, "It is also not, to put it bluntly, a jet. 'If you're very pedantic,' Mr. Martin acknowledged, a gasoline-powered piston engine runs the large rotors. Jet Skis, he pointed out, are not jets, and the atmospheric jet stream is not created by engines. 'This thing flies on a jet of air,' he said. Or, more simply, it flies."
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Practical Jetpack Available "Soon"

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) * on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:41PM (#24393203) Journal
    TFS concedes this is neother "practical" nor a "jet pack", yet still trumpets the headline "Practical Jetpack Available 'Soon'"? Well, I guess all it needs is a line at the end saying, "Ha -- made you look!".
  • We've discussed this before [slashdot.org]! I mean have you watched that video? The thing barely gets off the ground!
  • by eggfoolr (999317) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:49PM (#24393287)

    Lucky the $100k includes a couple of guys to hold it for you!

    I suspect he either needs a fly by wire computer that manages stability or a third fan. Either way I think we're a wee way off from a production model.

    • Not necessarily (Score:3, Informative)

      by Viol8 (599362)

      The old style peroxide jetpacks don't require fly by wire control because just like this one they have the centre of gravity BELOW the exhausts so the pilot is effectively dangling down beneath. All that would happen if he let go of the controls is that it would probably weave around a bit at random but its unlikely to go upside down or completely out of control.

  • I'd put that at cold fusion, maybe strong AI. And more in line with this, a space elevator. Jetpacks might be pretty cool, but honestly, I'd rather just take a ride up where there's no gravity and float around for a bit.
  • by Onetus (23797) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:53PM (#24393325) Homepage

    Excellent, now my mechanic will be available to get to my flying car (which is also coming "soon") no matter where it is.

    • by cervo (626632)
      Heck even I remember seeing these things in the Weekly Reader magazine when I was in grammar school and that was during the 80's. The article seemed to be predicting in the next few years (I think around 10). And here we are almost 20 years later and the flying car is like Duke Forever.
  • You hear a voice resounding off the local buildings

    " Here I come to save the day!! "

    (of course it would require modulating the sound produced by the rotors to act as a giant megaphone to be heard anywhere near this thing)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:54PM (#24393337)

    ... welcome our hearing-impaired jetpack flying overlords.

  • by Channard (693317) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:54PM (#24393343) Journal
    I have succesfully created working artificially intelligent android!

    Okay, so it's not so much an android as a small two foot tall robot.

    And by 'robot'.. I mean a cat wearing a cardboard box.

    ------------------ See! I can make my inventions sound grandiose by making things up, too!

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:55PM (#24393351)

    Didn't the myth busters try to make one and failed at it?

    • by hellwig (1325869) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:09PM (#24393515)
      Yeah, but they worked in TV time, which meant they had a week before the producer got bored and told them to do something else. This guy has been working 27 years, so I wouldn't doubt he put a little more effort in over that time.

      Besides, the mythbusters fail to reproduce a lot of things, even when they know before hand it's not really a myth but actual fact.
      • by reverseengineer (580922) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @08:59PM (#24394531)

        If I remember the episode correctly, the point of that particular myth wasn't so much whether they could build a working "jetpack," but specifically, if they could do so using some instructions they found on the internet which claimed a person could successfully do so with inexpensive, commonplace parts. What they found was that the instructions were too vague to serve as anything more than guidelines, and even after going over budget to get better quality parts, their machine still had an unacceptable thrust-to-weight ratio and so could not fly with a human passenger.

        While they "busted" the feasibility of that particular set of plans, they didn't really attempt to rule out a jetpack altogether. With the resources for proper parts, and the time for proper testing, it's undoubtedly possible to build a working jetpack/rocketbelt/ducted fan harness thing. The issues with personal flight systems have not so much centered around possibility as practicality.

    • Yes. Couldn't lift itself off the ground, let along a 180lb pilot.

      That said, they also added a lot of structural integrity (mass) before the first flight, that they possibly could have done after first flight to check the limits.

  • "It is also not, to put it bluntly, a jet. 'If you're very pedantic,' Mr. Martin acknowledged..."translation: We've submitted this to Slashdot, and wish to head off the Legion of Pedantry and the Battalion of Righteous Verbiage before they cause the discussion to degenerate into useless babble that doesn't help us get VC funding.

    • D'oh. Preview is my oft-ignored friend. There goes the humor. Should read:

      "It is also not, to put it bluntly, a jet. 'If you're very pedantic,' Mr. Martin acknowledged..."

      Translation: We've submitted this to Slashdot, and wish to head off the Legion of Pedantry and the Battalion of Righteous Verbiage before they cause the discussion to degenerate into useless babble that doesn't help us get VC funding.

    • "It is also not, to put it bluntly, a jet.
      Actually looks more like the old Cobra "Trouble Bubble" from the mid80's than a proper jet pack.
  • by strelitsa (724743) * on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:56PM (#24393367) Journal

    In June 1997, seven weeks after the birth of his second child, Mr. Martin figured his prototype was now powerful enough to lift its first flier, so long as that person weighed less than 130 pounds. So he turned to his wife. "I said, 'Hey, Vanessa, what are you doing tonight?"

    Mrs. Martin agreed to be her husband's levitating guinea pig.

    ...

    She said she felt, in a way, that she had conquered it - "the taming of it, that's so exciting." It was, she said, "probably the best experience of my life."

    Doesn't say a lot about being married to Mr. Martin or Mr. Martin's prowess in the sack, does it?

  • Pedantry (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:57PM (#24393381)

    "It is also not, to put it bluntly, a jet. 'If you're very pedantic,"' Mr. Martin acknowledged, a gasoline-powered piston engine runs the large rotors. Jet Skis, he pointed out, are not jets, and the atmospheric jet stream is not created by engines.

    Certainly one is permitted a bit of license in terminology. In fact, if you really get down to it, Jet Li is not actually a jet either.

  • Jet Packs & You (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip (656104) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:57PM (#24393383)

    The concept of a personal flying machine (e.g. Cars, Bikes, Jet Packs) is two fold at the moment.

    1) Energy / Power (inc. Storage & Delivery)
    2) Safety

    Now I'm going to assume for the sake of this post that we could solve the second one if it was viable to do anyway.

    The real kicker is really energy. We need a very rich energy source that is cheap, light, small in volume, and safe.

    We can often tick two or three of those boxes but no energy source comes remotely close to hitting all four. Hydrogen for example is light, small in volume, but there are questions over safety and cost.

    If we invented some kind of completely safe energy source that had the energy output approaching a nuclear reactor and weighted very little we could be in flying cars within a few years.

    But frankly such dreams are far off.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Nuclear powered electric rotors!

      "But frankly such dreams are far off."

      You don't say~

    • by Sj0 (472011)

      I'd say such dreams are actually behind us. We've reached the peak of our cheap portable energy. From here it all gets more expensive and more bulky.

    • Re:Jet Packs & You (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:19PM (#24393635)
      Hydrogen's not really all that small in volume, actually. Joule-for-joule it takes up much more space in gasoline, even when you start getting into bulky cryogenic compressed storage. Chemical or physical storage is getting there, of course, but isn't a serious option yet, and you run into the problem of gravimetric energy density. You don't want to weigh down your vehicle with fuel.
      • by Glonoinha (587375)

        Maybe if we coupled the hydrogen with some carbon atoms, made chains that were eight carbons long with a bunch of hydrogens hanging off the carbons. Maybe throw in a bunch of three or four carbon chains with hydrogens hanging off them and mix it all up, come up with a liquid that has a very low boiling point, is easily vaporized or converted into a mist to increase its surface area, with a propensity to combine with the oxygen in the air in that form if ignited by spark (in a highly reactive manner giving

    • Re:Jet Packs & You (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lennier (44736) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:30PM (#24393765) Homepage

      "Hydrogen for example is light, small in volume..."

      No, actually, that's exactly wrong. Being light by definition means it is NOT "small in volume". It takes a huge volume of H2 in room temperature gas form to store a similar amount of energy to a heavier molecule. The volume problem is why it's a pain to store unless you go to cryogenics, hydrides, or other complicated systems.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rcw-work (30090)

      The concept of a personal flying machine (e.g. Cars, Bikes, Jet Packs) is two fold at the moment.

      1) Energy / Power (inc. Storage & Delivery)
      2) Safety

      Why, again, does this need to be something you carry on your back instead of something you step into?

      Gyrocopters can be made very small, they can land almost vertically (and in a controlled manner with the engine out), the ones with pre-rotators and collective controls can take off near vertically (the ones that can only do the former need only a few

    • Re:Jet Packs & You (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sibko (1036168) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:56PM (#24394035)

      Hydrogen for example is light, small in volume, but there are questions over safety and cost.

      Actually, Hydrogen is light, huge in volume, very safe, and inexpensive. There's a reason it was used to fly blimps, you know.

      And before someone goes around throwing the hindenburg in everyone's faces, keep in mind that it was painted with rocket fuel, and that more than half the people on board survived the crash. The same cannot be said for your average airplane.

      What gets me though, is that in the face of a personal flying machine that flies around in a video, and is capable of doing so for half an hour, you go on about how personal flying machines aren't possible. Flying cars are known as Helicopters, and your average person could likely afford a hot air balloon. Personal flying machines are everywhere - from cessna's to hang gliders. They're just not as ubiquitous as automobiles, nor as practical for getting around.

    • by Tweenk (1274968)

      With regard to point 2, the presented jetpack is interesting, becuase it's safer the lower you fly - directly opposite to airplanes and helicopters. It may actually have a niche market after all.

    • Hydrogen is never light and small in volume at the same time. At least all of the high density storage methods I've seen aren't light. It is, however, pretty safe for the most part.
  • $100k? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by giminy (94188) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @06:58PM (#24393393) Homepage Journal

    Consider the total cost of a private pilot's license is about $10k, and the cost of a used Cessna 172 can be had for about $50k [aso.com] in great condition (which, keep in mind, can carry four people, or 2-3 people with some gear, pretty comfortably), I think that the jetpack would have a hard time selling.

    I suppose that there could be some niche market for this sort of thing though...though even a well-equipped Harley costs significantly less than many cars still.

    • Re:$100k? (Score:4, Funny)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:05PM (#24393467) Homepage Journal

      Are you kidding?
      First, I'd love to ahve one of these, assuming it worked as promised.

      Second,... ah crap, I don't know, I just want one.

    • Re:$100k? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by avandesande (143899) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:11PM (#24393549) Journal

      Someobody that is going to buy this isn't to buy it in place of a cessna.... it's an expensive toy, albit a very expensive one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hellwig (1325869)
      This should classify as an ultra-light, meaning there's no pilot's license necessary, and you aren't tied-down by most of the traditional FAA regulations. Second, try taking off or landing a Cessna in your driveway.

      If you want to talk impractical, look at the Segway. The thing costs over $5000 (USD), and for what, cause you're too lazy to walk somewhere, or too uncoordinated to ride a bicycle? Why not buy a moped for a hell of a lot cheaper?

      This will fall into the same niche market as the Segway.
      • Re:$100k? (Score:4, Informative)

        by rcw-work (30090) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:51PM (#24393987)

        Second, try taking off or landing a Cessna in your driveway.

        Unless your driveway is in the sticks, you'll only be able to take off and land this thing there once. After that, the neighbors will have taken out restraining orders preventing you from operating it near them.

    • You know what else you didnt think of? Considering the cost of a honda civic, and gas mileage, not to mention it has room for 4 comfortably, a great track record of fuel efficiency and reliability, we are forgetting the realization that you are seemingly pretty damn boring as a human.

    • Re:$100k? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by chinakow (83588) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:27PM (#24393729)
      Who are these mythical 4 people who fit in a 172? I guess if two of them are small children then yes, but no luggage! :-) A pilot and me in a 172 on a day that is over seventy degrees and the pilot starts thinking about how much fuel he can have and still get off the ground. Also that niche is called Genral Aviation or GA for short. You also didn't mention that a brand new 172 costs one hundred and twenty thousand dollars ($120,000). Did I mention that air conditioning adds another $20,000? I went and looked at light sport aircraft a couple weekends ago. None of those where under $100K and LSA is supposed to be the category that gets the general public interested in aviation again. Raise you hand if $100 is less than your yearly income. $100k has been the line for upper class for a long time and here in fly-over country it certainly still seems like a good mark. So the price of this jet pack seems rather reasonable to me. If it is truly under 255 pounds and carries less than 5 gallons of fuel it would also qualify as an ultralight and not need to be certified which would make it more approachable because the pilot would not need to be licensed as a pilot either. I just looked at your link, none of those under $50k planes list engine time. Don't forget to factor another $20k for the engine rebuild as well. Notice that the new planes are listed at ~$200k. Good luck with your 172. I will spend my imaginary money on a jet pack! :-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by giminy (94188)

        Who are these mythical 4 people who fit in a 172? I guess if two of them are small children then yes, but no luggage! :-)

        Note that I said, "can carry four people, or 2-3 people with some gear" The jetpack can carry just one person with little to no gear.

        A pilot and me in a 172 on a day that is over seventy degrees and the pilot starts thinking about how much fuel he can have and still get off the ground.

        Interesting pilot. I used to fly with my housemate who belonged to an aero club. We took Cessna 150s a

    • Well, the price of a used Volkswagon is even cheaper; what's your point?
    • by GroeFaZ (850443)
      I totally agree. Pricing would also explain why so few Saturn V rockets are used for recreational purposes. However, it fails to explain why rusty spoons (for carving your heart out) are equally absent from the market.
  • These will be perfect for my sharks.

  • Murderer (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:00PM (#24393415) Homepage Journal

    My neighbors can't even handle driving SUVs, but the roads are full of them (and the hell they've made of driving among them).

    Turning these people into missiles with jetpacks is a great argument for prioritizing personal force field research.

    • Re:Murderer (Score:4, Funny)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:06PM (#24393473) Homepage Journal

      They will only be a problem for a little while. Mistake will weed them out very quickly.
      In the mean time, stay indoors.

    • Actually, it's a great argument for making these things even more dangerous, and letting natural selection take its course!

    • by lilomar (1072448)
      My God! You're right!

      You know what's even more dangerous? Airplanes!

      Imagine if these things ever were allowed off the ground. People would be flying into houses all of the time. Time to work on that force field!

      </sarcasm>
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        If airplanes were as available as these jet packs would be, in expense and licensing, then I'd be saying exactly what you're saying. If I survived long enough to say it.

        • by lilomar (1072448)
          How is this different than when airplanes were first available?

          Don't worry, I'm sure it will be regulated soon enough.
    • The good news is, unlike SUV's where horrible driving skills are rewarded by walking away from an accident unscathed whilst you've maimed the person in the normal-sized vehicle, the operator of this thing will likely get pureed in an accident, allowing natural selection to prove itself more than a theory.
    • by grahamd0 (1129971)

      Turning these people into missiles with jetpacks is a great argument for prioritizing personal force field research.

      You need a reason to prioritize personal force field research other than personal force fields?!

  • Jetpack?!? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:04PM (#24393465)
    How high off the ground does a vehicle need to get before it is no longer considered a hovercraft? I don't think this vehicle has ever reached that altitude. "If you can fly it as 3 feet, you can fly it at 3000 feet" is bullshit, if I understand something called "ground effect" correctly.
    • by compro01 (777531)

      Unless I'm mistaken, ground effect would not apply to lift via vectored thrust, as this thingy uses, only to aerodynamic lift via wings. It's essentially the same principle a VTOL jet uses, only on a different scale.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by IdeaMan (216340)

        Ground effect applies to airplanes, helicopters and of course hovercraft.
        I would expect the effect would be much less on this craft given that it has much less surface area than a hovercraft or helicopter.
        So yeah, get at least 7 times your width up before you claim free flight (which earlier poster said there are videos of).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MichaelSmith (789609)

          Ground effect applies to airplanes, helicopters and of course hovercraft.

          Ands rockets. Lunar module pilots had to either cut their power or throttle right down to land on the moon. Ground effect was significant over the last couple of metres.

    • Re:Jetpack?!? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cervo (626632) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:19PM (#24393631) Journal
      From TFA: "Only 12 people have flown the jetpack, and no one has gained more than three hours of experience in the air. Mr. Martin plans to take it up to 500 feet within six months. This time, he said with a smile, he will be the first."

      In the article it said that the height was limited to allow people to practice at lower altitude. And I think I recall the limit being at 6 feet so far. This statement appears to be about learning to control it at 3 feet before trying to take it 3000 or in the case of the test 500 feet.

      There's a good chance soon we'll have a more sensational article about a 500 ft flight soon. Hopefully it won't be part of an obituary.
    • Re:Jetpack?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:19PM (#24393639)
      Depends entirely on how much excess power it has. If he's hovering at 6' off the ground at 75% throttle, it's a pretty good guess he'll be able to go much, much higher. If he's at 90% throttle at 6', I would seriously doubt 3,000' would be possible.
  • Gasoline?!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by tb()ne (625102) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:09PM (#24393517)
    No, thanks. I'm waiting for a hybrid or electric jet pack before I buy. One has to be practical about buying a jet pack, given today's gas prices.
    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      I'm wondering about a combination of helium pack & electric fans.. might not get the speed but would still be cool.. have to wonder how big the packs would have to be to lift a 180 person though... if it gets to be "car size".. well then, may as well shoot for the flying car instead.
    • by DeadDecoy (877617)
      Ya, and what happens if you run out? Does that mean you have to get out and push?
      :)
  • by Samah (729132) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:15PM (#24393579)
    A "Jitpeck"?
  • That's a little anticlimatic,

    That sentence of the last paragraph sums it up nicely. Technical detail was mostly absent, however, we are informed directly from the horse's mouth that "it simply flies". Thanks for clearing that one up. Not even a video for the visually fixated. Is there no better article on this?
  • just calling it a microcopter or something and be done with it. It seems to be neither jet nor a pack in any sense of the word(s) :(
    It does have landing gear and props pointed up...we used to call those things helicopters....

    I suppose the real question is how do you license it/you for use ? I didn't see anything about how one would actually use it other than a toy in your own yard. Oh well 30 minutes flight time still isn't worth dragging it out to get there unless it was straight up anyway.

  • That's no jetpack... (Score:3, Informative)

    by elynnia (815633) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:27PM (#24393735)
    ...that's a a ducted fan [wikipedia.org]. As fancy as they are, making a personal flying device out of one was just a matter of improving the power-to-weight ratio.

    Although, having read the article, that may be much more simple than an actual jet-engined jetpack for the time being.

    -Aly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bencoder (1197139)
      Personal flying machines using ducted fan's were about back in the 50s as military projects, but scrapped because they were ultimately too impractical as combat vehicles :( imagine what the tech might have been like today if they had commercialised the projects :(

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VZ-1_Pawnee [wikipedia.org]
  • MythBusters (Score:3, Informative)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:31PM (#24393773)
    Looks like he succeeded where the MythBusters [kwc.org] failed. The device looks pretty much identical to the one they built.
  • If the engine dies, so do you.

    • by localroger (258128) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @07:54PM (#24394009) Homepage
      The existing device includes a ballistic recovery system, basically an explosive-launched parachute that you deploy when something goes wrong. The main trick with that is to be flying high enough for the parachute to deploy and float you down. It's a common thing in ultralight aircraft and probably accounts for a lot of the cost. Most ultralight fatalities occur because the failure occurred too low for the BRD to deply, or it fouled in a propeller or something.
  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Tuesday July 29, 2008 @08:06PM (#24394139) Homepage
    I wrote about jet packs and if you're interested in information on the realities of jet packs and what they are and need to actually work it's here: http://depletedcranium.com/?p=103 [depletedcranium.com]

    Anyway, I'd maintain that the point of a jetpack that makes it especially cool is that it's a pack, as in a back-pack. You thus have air mobility without a vehicle that you have to leave behind once you land. For example, you can strap it on, fly then land in a parking lot, walk into a store and then walk out and take off. If the jetpack needs to be left in a parking space and you can't just bring it wear it with you then it defeats the purpose.

    There are already ultra-light helicopters and they do effectively the same thing. All that makes a jetpack special is that it is "truly" wearable. And in order for this to happen you need to keep the weight reasonable - like under a couple hundred pounds at the very most. A person can carry one third of their weight on their back with relatively good comfort and endurance. They can carry more if it's for a short period of time and they're not going very far. If it's an issue of carrying the thing up to your office or something then it might be able to weigh a significant amount of body weight. Still, it could cause injury if it were dragged very far.

    To achieve this you need a very light weight jet engine with a very high SFC. (Specific Fuel Consumption). To this end there is one jet engine which stands out, the Williams FJ-22. It weighs only 85 lbs, it has 700+ lbs of thrust and it's reported to have a very high fuel effeciency. High enough for a jetpack? Not known. The unfortunate thing about the little jet is that it only made it to the prototyping phase and after the largest client for the jet, Eclipse Aviation, pulled out, the design was shelved. Thus, it seems that such an engine won't be avaliable in the near future.
  • Why not just go for the strap-on helicopter [acecraftusa.com] instead of bothering with the ducted fans?

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