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Your own personal jetpack, coming soon

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A personal jetpack capable of 30 minutes of sustained flight may soon hit the market.

Meet George Jetson:  It is reported that a personal jetpack, capable of 30 minutes of sustained flight, will soon start undergoing field tests, and then be available to anyone willing to open their wallet.

Martin Aircraft, based in New Zealand, is expected to start selling jetpacks for up to $100,000 apiece that can fly up to an altitude of 8,000 feet and a range of 31 miles. The Martin Jetpack, according to a report in Fast Thinking, is made "from lightweight carbon fibre composite," and includes a "backup flying system and a parachute in case of emergencies." (That's very good to know.)

The above video is a demonstration of the Martin JetPack in action. Note the resemblance to a full drum set strapped to the pilot's back. The jetpack is even powered by regular premium gasoline available at your local station -- no rocket or jet fuel required. Training is mandatory for prospective pilots, who can't weigh more than 238 pounds.

The company reports that it is already working with an undisclosed government agency for 500 Martin Jetpacks a year. Martin Aircraft reports that an unmanned remote-controlled version is under development and is undergoing field trials. Availability of the remote-control version is expected by the second quarter of 2011.

The only nagging question is what practical purpose jetpacks will serve for its users. There's military potential, but as with the case of hang-gliders, it's likely to to be more of an extreme sport than any useful economic purpose.

There are other interesting variations of the jetpack idea also hitting the market. For example, Jetlev Sports Inc. has developed a water-powered jetpack for soaring above bodies of water. Water is the propellant, piped in by a 30-foot long tethered hose. The first rollout was scheduled to be underway at this time in south Florida and the Caribbean.

Beyond the thrill rides, perhaps the jetpack, with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, could be employed for some more business-like purposes -- here are a few thoughts:

  • By emergency personnel to spot people in remote locations in search and rescue operations
  • To deliver medical supplies to inaccessible locations.
  • By police, firefighters or forest rangers to survey trouble spots
  • By geologists seeking to identify and explore terrain
  • By engineers to survey stress fractures in tall buildings or bridges
  • To transfer people and supplies between ships.

Readers, what are your ideas for possible uses for this new technology?

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure