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Jet Packs, Finally On Sale 132

Posted by timothy
from the pretty-penny-pretty-fun dept.
Bad_CRC1945 writes "The good news: Not one, but two companies are selling jet packs. The bad news: The tech has a long way to go. In the past, potential buyers have been stymied by two problems: Rocket belts aren't for sale, and even prototypes run on modern-day fuel (as opposed to whatever the Jetsons use) which means rocket belts can weigh upwards of 100 pounds, with only enough fuel to stay aloft for under a minute." That second problem's still with us, but the article hints that jet-fuel options (for the brave) could considerably extend users' time aloft.
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Jet Packs, Finally On Sale

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  • I've always wondered (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dangitman (862676) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:27AM (#33407862)

    What exactly is the point of jetpacks supposed to be? They don't seem to be useful for any civilian or military purposes that other technologies aren't more appropriate. Is the obsession with jetpacks just about being like a comic book superhero?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What exactly is the point of jetpacks supposed to be? They don't seem to be useful for any civilian or military purposes that other technologies aren't more appropriate. Is the obsession with jetpacks just about being like a comic book superhero?

      Purpose: putting yourself and others at risk. Also known as fun for some people (not for me).

    • by compro01 (777531) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:42AM (#33407920)

      Is the obsession with jetpacks just about being like a comic book superhero?

      Pretty sure the answer is yes.

      If one wants to fly without an airplane around them, an approach like the Martin Jetpack [wikipedia.org] works much better. Far longer flight time and much more altitude. Cheaper fuel too.

      • except that after 25 years of development, the Martin Jetpack continues to not exist (beyond prototypes that don't perform to published theoretical specs). Hell, if we're pitching things that don't exist against things that do, why not run with anti-gravity and trump them all?
        • by HBoar (1642149)
          It exists, and it works very well. I know a few of the engineers/test pilots working on it. They even had a journalist flying it some six months ago or so. They're in the final stages of safety testing before it goes into production as I understand.
          • Really? That's odd...for something that "works very well" there's not a single video (or photo) of the thing flying over about 4 feet in the air, or for a duration of over about 30 seconds.

            The BEST video to be seen of the thing is an UNMANNED flight (read: minus 200lbs operator weight) that goes straight up and then back down.

            for something that is supposed to have an 8000ft ceiling, 30 min duration, 60mph speed, and 30 mile range...it has accomplished exactly NONE of these, or even a fraction in the
            • by HBoar (1642149)

              I hope you are intentionally pretending to be thick....

              In case you aren't, the reason you can't see videos of people flying it at 8000 feet is that it has not completed all safety requirements yet, as I said in my first post. They don't hire expendable test pilots to fly the thing, they are professional engineers that don't really want to risk their lives any more than needed.

              The machine itself is obviously capable of performing to those specifications -- it would be trivial to show otherwise on paper

              • I hope you're just pretending to be gullible.

                or are you suggesting that no company would ever dream to exaggerate specs, or overpromise on claims that they can't ever deliver on.

                The fact is, as I said in MY first post, the machine doesn't exist so far as their claimed specs goes. It has been demonstrated to do exactly ZERO of the claims they've made.

                Claims are easy, actually making the damn thing work is the hard part. Until they make it work, what is there to get excited about? It's an odd look
                • by HBoar (1642149)

                  OK, maybe I need to reiterate my statement that I know engineers working on the project, and have seem it fly with my own eyes. It could match the specs that you're talking about YEARS ago, but it didn't even have the ballistic parachute at that stage, so no one was stupid enough to actually TRY it just to make morons like you believe them. A large part of an engineers job (a professional engineer, not a fitter/turner...) is to determine the performance of something before a such a time that it can actual

                  • A healthy dose of skepticism is a great thing, but you're just being a bonehead.

                    I think you're confusing "bonehead" with "real world". I'm sorry if you have an emotional investment in the coolfactor of these things, but that doesn't change the fact that these are:

                    1. not for sale
                    2. still under development
                    3. have never been demonstrated to function in "jet pack-ish fashion"


                    I can't for the life of me figure out how it is that you put all that together in your head and come up with "yep, works great". It's laughable to compare the specs of a device that doesn't perform to it's

                    • by HBoar (1642149)

                      3. have never been demonstrated to function in "jet pack-ish fashion"

                      Except for all those times that it HAS been demonstrated to function in a "jet pack-ish fashion"..... Videos are available on their website.

                      the martin approach doesn't work (yet?).

                      I think a few companies like Bell, Robinson, Eurocopter, Kaman, Sikorsky etc. would disagree. Rotary wing aircraft are quite common, and work well. This jetpack is just a small helicopter using ducted fans -- there is nothing particularly special about it. Again, it's just the control system that is innovative in that their aim is to allow a layman to fly it. If y

    • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

      What exactly is the point of jetpacks supposed to be? They don't seem to be useful for any civilian or military purposes that other technologies aren't more appropriate. Is the obsession with jetpacks just about being like a comic book superhero?

      Look, sometimes you need an emergency escape plan, like if the Slayer comes after you just because you try to take over Sunnydale. I mean, c'mon, ALL the cool evil kids try to take over Sunnydale! It's a right of passage!

      Besides, if you're a Joss Whedon fan with a j

      • by Tumbleweed (3706)

        Wow, I'm tired. Rite of passage, not right. Ugh.

        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          Wow, I'm tired. Rite of passage, not right. Ugh.

          You have redeemed yourself. I am happy to report that hara-kiri will not be necessary in this case.

          • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

            > Wow, I'm tired. Rite of passage, not right. Ugh.

            You have redeemed yourself. I am happy to report that hara-kiri will not be necessary in this case.

            I dunno, I'm still feeling pretty ashamed. I should perhaps seek some help from a mental health professional to deal with this.

      • Look, sometimes you need an emergency escape plan, like if the Slayer comes after you just because you try to take over Sunnydale.

        That 19-minute jet-turbine version discussed in TFA seems like just the thing one might need after robbing a bank (or a similar institution) in an urban setting.
        Just remember not to rob the Gotham National Bank.
        Not only is it a mob bank, but Batman has stashed some irradiated bills there too, PLUS Joker already has plans regarding that particular bank.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gilesjuk (604902)

      Humans have always wanted to fly like birds can.

      Flying without a plane is as close as you can get to that?

      Just to be able to fly from one point to another, no need for a car or other vehicle. No traffic.

      • by hitmark (640295) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @08:18AM (#33408234) Journal

        until the sky fills with jetpack equipped people, and one gets there faster by walking.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by AmigaMMC (1103025)

          until the sky fills with jetpack equipped people, and one gets there faster by walking.

          Yey! I can't wait to have a sky full of asian women "driving" a jetpack ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by lennier (44736)

          Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails
          Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales
          Heard the heavens fill with thunder, and there rain'd a deadly dew
          From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue

      • Dunno about other humans, but for me it would be mostly about the "without a plane around me" part, when I have to travel long distance. Airlines suck, frankly.

        I remember the last time I was in an aircraft, with some leg space that was too small even for a 5 ft tall woman who was with us, listening to a screaming kid, and peering down into some airliner joke food that was at most good for a goat, I remembered the famous Da Vinci quote, "When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with

        • If the technology were available to everyone, it would cost more than a first-class ticket on an airliner. Yet most people don't buy first-class tickets. Many of the discount airlines don't even have first class, because they know not enough people are willing to pay for it.

          There's the old joke that everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Everyone complains about airline comfort, but very few people do anything about it -- and with airlines, you actually can do something

        • by Nethead (1563)

          http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012705610_zeppelin24m.html [nwsource.com]

          The zeppelin is now in view, and you can ride in it.

        • for me it would be mostly about the "without a plane around me" part,

          I hope you enjoy a bird to the face crushing your skull, then. Travelling at any sort of speed for long distance travel means any sort of collision would be fatal without that plane around you, and you aren't very aerodynamic, so you won't be turning well.

          • by Moraelin (679338)

            Decisions, decisions... bird to the face vs risking a thrombosis in the legs after being packed like that in an airplane... I'll take the bird, if I have the choice ;)

          • Well, it occurs to me that I wouldn't really need supersonic speeds or anything, actually. People survive motorcycle trips just fine at, say, 100mph, with just a helmet on. And that's not even particularly fast for a motorcycle.

            Thing is, if you sum up the actual average speed for the airplane trip, that is dividing the distance by the total time, including:

            - half an hour to an hour driving to the airport (unless you're unfortunate enough to actually live near it. They're loud)

            - coming one hour early at the

    • by vtcodger (957785)

      ***What exactly is the point of jetpacks supposed to be? ***

      There will be some uses for them. Carrying cables across canyons; access to otherwise difficult locations; maybe even some rescue operations eventually. But they are likely to be noisy, dangerous, to have limited load capability. The experimental devices built in the past are said to have a history of leg and leg joint injuries.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        If that were the real goal then tip-jet helicopters are more likely better suited to that one person utility flight role http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/helicopters/q0141.shtml [aerospaceweb.org]. Last time they tried them was near fifty years ago, likely with substantially better jet engine technology and composite materials they can do a much better job of them now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by iamacat (583406)

      What other technologies are appropriate for a soldier quickly getting from point A to point B in the middle of a battle, especially in urban/mountain setting?

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Shotguns.

        • I believe you mean rockets, sir?

          • by Sulphur (1548251)

            Thanks. The first thing I thought of was skeet shooting.

            I thought that lumbering low flying soldiers on a battlefield would provoke fire from the enemy. If they were moving fast enough to lead, then a shotgun would be a likely choice. There might be a use for decoys.

    • Here's one of many examples of their practical application:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZg8ysENGfE#t=3m40s [youtube.com]
    • What exactly is the point of jetpacks supposed to be? They don't seem to be useful for any civilian or military purposes that other technologies aren't more appropriate. Is the obsession with jetpacks just about being like a comic book superhero?

      Either that or an odd fascination with Wile E. Coyote...

    • Good point. It's not like people just fly for no reason. I mean except for recreational pilots, parasailers, hang gliders, ultralights, gyrocopters, and a few I've forgotten. Except for all those hundreds of thousands of people, nobody would be interested in pointless flight. total waste of time.
  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:32AM (#33407876)

    Why do people think that jet fuel is some futuristic stuff? It is basically kerosene.

    A not so big secret is that jet engines became popular, not because they were super-efficient, but because they could burn crappy cheap jet fuel. Thus a less efficient jet engine could run faster and cheaper than a piston-engined aircraft.

    • by toastar (573882)

      Why do people think that jet fuel is some futuristic stuff? It is basically kerosene.

      A not so big secret is that jet engines became popular, not because they were super-efficient, but because they could burn crappy cheap jet fuel. Thus a less efficient jet engine could run faster and cheaper than a piston-engined aircraft.

      well... modern jet fuel is a little bit more complicated then this. Deicing agents and the such.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @12:26PM (#33409208)
      Completely wrong. Piston engines are limited by the essential geometry of the cylinder/valve combination, plus the maximum piston speed which is geometry independent. Once a spark ignition cylinder exceeds about 500cc, its specific output starts to drop. Beyond 2 liters, diminishing returns set in with a vengeance. Mechanical complexity thus sets a limit to aircraft engine horsepower. (Marine engines can be huge because they don't have to worry about weight.) Turbocharging and supercharging eventually reach the point at which a lot of the thrust is being produced by the exhaust - at which point, replace the mechanical complexity of the piston engine with a relatively simple burner, and you have a jet engine which is simpler, lighter and more reliable.

      Bottom line: above a few thousand KW, piston engines for aircraft are simply too complex, expensive and unreliable. The fuel is immaterial.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by westlake (615356)
        One prime candidate for the largest piston-driven aircraft engine ever built, the Lycoming R-7755 [wikipedia.org]

        You think you have oil consumption problems? Meet the Lycoming R-7755, a 36-cylinder, 5000-hp, turbosupercharged monster displacing 7,755 cubic inches (bore/stroke 6.375 X 6.75 in.) and weighing a mere three tons, give or take a beer keg.

        Two of these babies were built in 1946 (one carbureted, one fuel-injected), for the Convair B-36. Pratt & Whitney won the engine contract, ultimately, with its 28-cylinde

      • While I agree with your point that the jet is far superior to the ICE engine in everything but low power low cost flight, there's also truth in the OP's original statement about the inexpensive fuel being a valuable benefit of jet turbines. Some time ago, the rail industry started producing Jet Turbine locomotives due to the huge price differential between jet fuel, and diesel fuel. These engines enjoyed the power and weight benefits you describe, with the ability to burn oil that was unsuitable for use in

  • 30s flight???? (Score:4, Informative)

    by miknix (1047580) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:47AM (#33407928) Homepage

    On a full tank of hydrogen peroxide the belt weighs 124 to 139 pounds (the bigger the pilot, the bigger the belt), and provides 30 seconds of flight.

    From TFA.

    • by siddesu (698447)
      That was in 2007. Now, because of the inflation of the Universe and the Moore effect the flight time has almost doubled.
    • by Johnno74 (252399)

      I wonder if that includes the time inbetween running out of fuel and slamming into the gound.

    • Since if it's anything close to the purity they used to use in ME-163 (T-Stoff) it'd give you severe chemical burns.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dominious (1077089)
      also from TFA:

      "Thirty-three seconds of fuel makes an inexperienced pilot twitchy." The solution? Ditch the rocket belt, and build a bona fide jet pack (okay, jet belt). Widgery plans to release the T73 Turbine by the end of the year; it's a $200,000 model that will burn jet fuel, allowing it to stay airborne for 19 minutes.

  • You could stay up to 10 minutes in the air using a proper jet engine, and I remember reading a company developing such a jet pack. However, that's pretty much the same as strapping a Williams X-Jet to your back, which is old technology.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by infolation (840436)
      (from TFA) Widgery plans to release the T73 Turbine by the end of the year; it's a $200,000 model that will burn jet fuel, allowing it to stay airborne for 19 minutes.
  • News from 2007 now? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:11AM (#33407998)

    The article appears to be from June 14, 2007. Here's one from this year:
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/aviation/diy-flying/martin-aircraft-jet-pack-for-sale

  • wasent the issue with jetpacks heat and cold burning fule being expensive and not efficient. and for 200k you can buy a sport aircraft liance and all. and can fly it pretty much anywhere unlike a ultralight or jetpack.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      Heat was, as was fuel. But I think there were other issues such as balancing the thrust, properly controlling it and putting the individual back on the ground gently enough not to break any bones.
  • And yet... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:29AM (#33408030) Journal

    ... neither of them provide more performance than Captain Keds got out of his when he punched out of the big paper mache football and flew around the field at halftime of Superbowl 1 in 1967. Armadillo Aerospace is top notch in H2O2 propulsion systems, and they aren't building one. I bet there's a good reason.

  • by NZheretic (23872) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:29AM (#33408032) Homepage Journal
    In 1980 they said that by 2010 some of us would be using jet packs to commute to work.
    What they did not foresee in 1980 was the rise of telecommuting and that those same commuters would not have to travel very far.
    Hence the need for only thirty seconds of flight time - it all make perfect sense.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      What they did not foresee in 1980 was the rise of telecommuting and that those same commuters would not have to travel very far.

      More to the point, even though it is 2010 the laws of physics still apply, and there haven't been significant breakthroughs in compact power plants for jet packs.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      because in 1980 at&t was still boss of the lines, and the connections where barely there for text.

  • You pansy. Strap some JATO rockets on your back and light those suckers!

  • before I change my sig. I like this one.
    • Is it sad that I thought about your sig when I saw the article?
    • well, keep checking:

      FTFA

      "Thirty-three seconds of fuel makes an inexperienced pilot twitchy." The solution? Ditch the rocket belt, and build a bona fide jet pack (okay, jet belt). Widgery plans to release the T73 Turbine by the end of the year; it's a $200,000 model that will burn jet fuel, allowing it to stay airborne for 19 minutes.

  • by melonman (608440) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:40AM (#33408056) Journal

    TFA suggests that replacing "inert" hydrogen peroxide with propane will make jet packs more dangerous. Maybe, maybe not, but hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidant that attacks many organic compounds (eg people) and can explode. It's not inert by any stretch of the imagination - how useful would an inert rocket fuel be in any case?

    Strapping a propane cylinder to your back might not be great either, but I suspect propane is easier to manage.

    There's a summary of H202 safety risks here [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      H2O2 inert? My thoughts exactly, when I read the article. The WWII Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet rocket-powered fighter used hydrogen peroxide which could, if mishandled, literally dissolve the pilot or ground crew. At worst it resulted in a rather huge explosion. Inert my foot!

    • I came here to say this. If I'm strapping on a backpack tank, I'll pass up the H2O2 in favor of, well, just about anything else. Certainly, jet fuel and propane are positively benign by comparison.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:54AM (#33408078)
    The problem with jet packs has been specific impulse. You simply cannot get enough power density into something you can heft on your back and walk around with, at least not without any usable flight time or performance.

    I've often thought small jet engines used in RC planes (~40lbs thrust) could be stacked up (6-8) of them to give you a jet pack. But nowadays you can buy a small jet engine designed for UAVs that might weighs 40 pounds and produces 200+ pounds of thrust, these kind of engines have been fitted to gliders.

    In terms of a true jet pack. Allowing some weight for fins, a fuel tank and harness you have a 170lb dry weight with three engines. Not much of a real 'pack' then.

    So the problems remain, even with the high specific impulse of a jet. You would need to add about your own weight in fuel for one hours flight time.

    More ingenious gadget to me, would be a hot air balloon that fits and deploys from a backpack using the same technology that allows large parachutes to be packed into small spaces.
    • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @07:04AM (#33408096)

      Instead of a hot air balloon, why not inflatable wings? You strap on the pack (which really should come with 'training wheels' so you don't crack your knees on landing) and when you get to 100' and have some horizontal velocity, out pop the wings to give you some extra lift.

      It's not as crazy as it sounds; Back in WWII we had entire ultralight airplanes that would inflate out of a suitcase... and apparently the test pilots said they were very smooth in flight.

    • by M3lf.cz (983459)

      But nowadays you can buy a small jet engine designed for UAVs that might weighs 40 pounds and produces 200+ pounds of thrust, these kind of engines have been fitted to gliders.

      a jet powered Blanik glider [youtube.com]

    • by Twinbee (767046)

      If battery tech were no object (infinitely powerful and capacity), and carbon buckyballs/nanotubes were trivial to make, how light, big and quiet in theory could we make a 'jetpack'?

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:57AM (#33408084)

    I remember back in the early 80s some DoD contractor had a prototype of a flying "trashcan" like in the Dick Tray comics.
    I thought it had some sort of jet engine with a steerable nozzle on the bottom. I think it was probably the Williams X-Jet, [wikimedia.org] but I swear it was painted stealth black.

    I used to dream about having one of those, and even as an adult I think it would be so cool to fly one of those around.

    I'm guessing that the program probably got canceled because of stability problems. But I would expect that now, with high speed DSPs and gyros like Dean Kamen has used for his scooter and his ubercool wheelchair, that the stability problems could be overcome.

  • The BBC had an interview with the creator of commerical jet packs earlier this year

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGB0csAEs08 [youtube.com]

  • If I remember correctly, one of the difficulties faced by the guy who made jetpacks in Mexico was that they were very difficult to mantain stable...

    My though is that it should be trivial to equip the thing with an array of small jets (in addition to the big ones used for propulsion) which are connected to a "leveling system" controlled electronically (a few gyroscopes or leveler ICs with some logic will solve the problem).

    • "Trivial..." (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345)
      Remind me never to offer you a job. If you think that stabilising a variable-geometry (people can move) rocket system with "a few gyroscopes...with some logic" is trivial, you are either a genius to make Newton look like a moron, or you have absolutely no idea of what you are talking about. I venture to suspect the latter.

      There is a reason why the term "rocket science" is used to suggest something is more than a bit difficult. But thank you for giving an old-timer a bit of amusement at the expense of what I

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I can build it with lego bricks, in my basement!
        Rocket Science is what old-timers think of when they need to use slide rules, we have php now buddy, we can code a rocketship in a webpage!

  • Do they sell trousers with heat proofing around the arse? This seems to be a detail most tv/film jet packs ignore.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ThreeGigs (239452)

      Just wear a pair of Depends(R). It'll cover the heat load of 30 seconds of flight, and the other kind of load encountered when a pilot discovers they have counted to 30 too slowly.

  • I didn't see this mentioned, but this is big news.
    The
    New Zealand's Martin Aircraft Company
    as you probably know has the holy grail of jetson-travel.
    I vow to fly one.
    martin jet pack [youtube.com]

    Speed up dude [wikispeedia.org]
  • The best design in this line was the Bell gas-turbine powered jetpack, powered by a Williams jet engine. Burned jet fuel, ran for about 20 minutes. That was in 1965.

    Sam Williams (1921-2009) seems to have been one of the few, if not the only, person who could design good little turbine engines. He did the one for the jetpack, the ones for US cruise missiles, the one for the Army's flying platform VTOL, and his company, Williams International, makes engines for small business jets.

    The basic frustration

    • by couchslug (175151)

      The small ones require similar fuel and air management tech to the large ones, so unless costs are cut in the core engine sections by dramatic material improvements, they will stay expensive.

  • We Were Promised Jetpacks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2q-X7DwlqI [youtube.com]
  • How many halftime shows?

    How many Bond films?

  • So I'm not an aviation engineer, but couldn't someone combine a jetpack with some wings so that naturally-occurring lift could be used to reduce fuel consumption once the person was above trees and buildings? Perhaps two 5-foot wings that could be folded and stored in a closet? Would you need 2-3 minutes of fuel in order to take off, stop, and land safely?
  • US$155,000, the cheapest one, for 33 seconds flight time?

    How about US$139,000 for one hour? http://jetlev.com/Pages/tech.html [jetlev.com]

    Sure, it's gotta be over water, but it runs on four-stroke engine with ordinary petrol and you get ONE HOUR!

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Sure, it's gotta be over water

      Somehow, that phrase does not inspire much confidence. If I'm going to fall out of the sky, I wouldn't want to depend on water breaking my fall from more than about twenty feet.

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