Forget Flying Cars, Own Your Own Jetpack

Back in the early 1960s, Bell Aerosystems developed and demonstrated the Bell Rocket Belt. It was the first successful jetpack, capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 mph, could travel up to 30 feet vertically, and had a maximum range of ~400 feet. It weighed 120 lbs loaded and flew for a whopping 21s on a single tank of fuel. Unsurprisingly, the military took a good look at the BBB and asked to be notified if there were any breakthroughs. Said advances have never materialized; the practical limitations of modern jetpack technology limit them to spectacular tech demos and entertainment.

At least that used to be the case. The Martin Aircraft Company has just announced that it's taking preorders for its new VTOL jetpack. After eight prototypes the company claims to have struck oil. The ninth design is supposedly capable of lifting a pilot weighing up to 260 pounds, holds five gallons of fuel, and burns some 10 gallons an hour when traveling at 63mph. The vehicle's maximum range is listed at 31.5 miles. Assuming all these stats are accurate, it might be possible to trade pilot weight for fuel capacity—we full-sized folks could find ourselves mocked by legions of airborne midgets bearing grudges and carrying wingtip-mounted fruit-throwers.

If one of the engines fails, does the pilot fly around in circles like a balloon before landing with an amusing *splat* sound?

Martin reportedly expects the jetpack to run about $86,000 (downright affordable compared to the "other" jetpacks on the market) and says it'll deliver commercial models within 12 months of ordering. You don't need an FAA license to fly one as long as you complete the company's training program, Hopefully that includes training pilots to look up before taking off and down before landing—losing power because poor Mr. Bartman landed on the high voltage lines during his descent would take the sheen off personal flying machines real quick.

It's short-ranged, slow, sucks fuel like a Hummer, and might not even exist, but we'd take one just the same. If you want additional info, the company's FAQ is here.