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back to article 'Jetpack' inventors: US military showing interest. Honest

A New Zealand company founded by a garage inventor says it is in talks to sell its so-called "Jetpack" - actually a personal ducted-fan aircraft too heavy to be lifted by its user - to the US military. The Martin 'Jetpack' in hover tests Stupid background projection out of focus again. The New Zealand Herald reported at the …

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Black Helicopters

Rather negative?

Hmm, an interestingly negative poke at this device from Lewis Page. Could it be something to do with the inventor's aversion to military use, perchance? ;)

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WTF?

Not carry weapons?

R U serious? Its the US Military!

Come on! Get some!! and an M60 spring to mind....

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Silver badge

Why pissed off if its used for weapons?

Unless he invented it just as a toy for rich playboys to put in their expensive gadgets collection then obviously the military would be the next option and the military tend to use weapons. Still, I suppose he could always give Ryanair a call and see if O'Leary would like to try and cram a dozen people

on one for ultra cheap short hauls.

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Badgers

Perchance?

Perchance! Nobody says "perchance" anymore. What are you from the middle ages or something, you might as well say "mayhap my good bretheren" or something.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Perchance?

Nothing wrong with archaisms, forsooth.

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Bronze badge

Perchance?

Perchance to dream.

You should read more A.A.Milne, J.M.Barrie, etc. Fee fie foe fum, I smell the bum of a non-Englishmun.

Yes, I use it still.

Like if the time is 5:25, I'd nowadays describe it as "kaksikymmentäviisi yli viisi" - or, as my father would've said, "five-and-twenty past five "

I wonder if you're a young bloke?

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Thumb Down

Hey...

I say "perchance"...

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Troll

Gadzooks!

There was I, perambulating thoughtfully, when I happened upon a notion that I had not been visited by the occurence of the 'perchance' word for quite a time. And, lo! In all its majesty it deigned to bestow itself upon me with the abject verisimilitude I would expect.

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Gold badge

Perchance?

I still use it. In regular conversation. I'm not even British; I'm Canadian. So, dude...wtf? Might as well lay into someone for using "whilst" or "thrice." Internet word snobs...*sigh*...

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Go

Yeah ...

... I'm with you. p0wned, dunno, dun, fire badger and all the other modern idioms are much better. Well, they fit the connected generation anyway: short, wrong and a lackluster attempt to turn idiocy into idiom. Or is it chicken shit into chicken salad? Dunno.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Worthless "invention"

From a Military perspective, too heavy, too loud, and too slow.

Not to mention in the field, fod can cause serious damage to the ducted fans.

Maybe if you did a bit of a redesign and made it a drone... but even then there are other devices and options.

Maybe a tactical news chopper for the morning traffic report?

No wait, CCTV and monitors in the roadway cover that already.

Sorry but if you're going to tinker, look for ways to quickly make carbon fiber cloth and graphite cloth that can be quickly pressed in to parts and can be recycled. Now that would have some value.

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Go

buuuuut

strap one of these to the back of those powered exo suits that are currently being tested and you have a turbine assisted death machine. hop in, shoot large calibre weapons and hop out.

on the bounce marines!

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Silver badge

@Danny

The thing weighs 250lbs.

So how do you carry it with you? How do you carry a regular load of weapons and kit?

You want to jump in... guess what... I'll hear you coming so you lose the shock value.

Now if you had a backpack flight gear that was lightweight and silent? I'd be the first one to hand you a check.

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Anonymous Coward

powered armour?

>So how do you carry it with you? How do you carry a regular load of weapons and kit?

you missed this bit:

>powered exo suit

Uou know, sometimes you want it to be loud...

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not impressed

I'm a kiwi, a pilot, extremely interested in everything aerospace — I went to the first 100 km high SpaceShip One flight, and helped some friends demonstrate their rocket-powered aircraft at Oshkosh. NZ has a fine record of pioneering inventions in a number of fields.

As far as I can tell this thing is bollocks.

They've managed to fool some government bureaucrats who want to "pick winners" into giving them public money. That's pretty much an anti-recommendation in itself.

I recall when they first demonstrated this it could not lift the inventor (who is fairly ordinary-sized) but only his teenaged son.

It's great that they've at least managed to get it working and from the videos it seems quite controllable and stable (no doubt computer-aided).

But what is the market?

- it can't lift much

- it's noisy

- it's slow

- the range is horrid

- the fuel economy is horrid

- the failure modes don't bear thinking about

I can't see any application, civilian or military in which it would be superior to either a conventional personal helicopter...

http://youtu.be/BNuW6Bfx840

... with far more performance and safety for a quarter the price, or a stealth attack by gliding parachutes dropped 50 miles from the target.

There's a public lecture here in Wellington tomorrow by these guys at 7 pm at the Paramount theatre (25 Courtenay Place). I'm going to go along but .. well. I hope they get asked some hard questions.

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Boffin

Another kiwi...

I do hope they get asked some hard questions as well, before getting more public money. The rocket guys also got ~$1m of foundation money to launch a small sub-orbital rocket that I can't see will be anything more than a fun toy to tinker with.

With the 'jet pack' (uggh - its a microlight, ducted fan helicopter), I can maybe see it selling in some niche markets (as with the segway).

For instance, I live on the North Shore of Auckland & work in the CBD. The pack would cost about the same or less than a high-end BMW, Merc or Porsche (which I also can't afford), but an owner could get from home to work in far less time than any car. Drag it out of the garage, flit over rush hour traffic and the harbour bridge bottleneck and land in the car-park at work. Even better if you live somewhere like Waiheke Island - minutes by jet back to downtime Auckland vs nearer to an hour by ferry. Must be other cities or locations with similar bottlenecks.

As Bruce point outs, there are issues:

- it can't lift much. A personal transport only needs to lift one person - but that needs a significant margin to allow for protective clothing, reduction in engine power over time/hot weather and/or fat flyers. Should be a matter of incremental improvement though - surely they can squeeze some more power to weight over time. Micro-gas turbine would be my pick as a replacement engine.

- it's noisy - I haven't heard it up close, but I could image a 2-stroke next to the head would not be fun. Still, decent ear protection & noise cancellation for the flyer.. If the pack spent most of the time crusing at 1000ft, then noise may not be too bad for those on the ground. I wouldn't want my neighbour to buy one though.

- it's slow. Wouldn't want it to be too fast given the pilot is hung out the front. I think the advantage is in VTOL and being able to fly in a straight line, so top speed is not an issue - assuming it has enough thrust to cope with moderate to high winds.

- the range is horrid. As above - you wouldn't want to fly for long distances, but something that could be improved if they can improve the thrust to weight ratio and carry more fuel.

- the fuel economy is horrid. Not that bad for an aircraft. Probably compares well with taking a 5 litre executive car over a commute in rush hour traffic.

- the failure modes don't bear thinking about. Hopefully somebody has thought about it. I assume that between say 10 feet & a couple of hundred feet (where a parachute can be used), there is a dead zone where total engine failure will ensure a world of hurt. Interesting to see how they could deal with that - airbags around the pilot?

I can see some applications in which it would be superior to a conventional personal helicopter as you could potential fly one of these close enough to a building/pylon for the pilot to bump up against the target with no large blades swinging around. You could even fly them inside stadiums. Don't write up some sales to people who will use them as stunt machines, for publicity or to offer the public joy rides. I may not be able to buy one.. but a few hundred for a (computer/remotely guided) blast around Queenstown might be worth it.

Probably not enough applications to make the machine a big success, but then they still make Segways even though they are generally inferior to bikes for most applications as well.

The biggest concern I have is why the aren't producing them; surely they could be doing limited production by hand to get more production? Hopefully this won't be like the Moller flying car and they end up sucking in millions for the inventor to demo a prototype but never actually produce more than a handful

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You'll believe a man can fly

I had a look at the videos on Mr Martin's website. It looks like a lot of fun but I can't think of any practical applications for it.

I tried to watch the "Hustory of the Jitpeck" video too but that Kiwi accent cracks me up. Almost choked on my fush & chups.

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Silver badge

Yves Rossy

Been doing something much more spectacular for years, with model aircraft turbine engines and a folding Buzz Lightyear wing. Unlike this thing, it actually works, and well enough to be able to cross the English Channel in about 8 minutes.

Also contains a parachute just in case of a "whoops" moment. Unlike, it seems, this thing.

http://www.livevideo.com/video/BC47350638CC4018A469219DD963B578/yves-rossi-jet-packs-accross-e.aspx

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Headmaster

James May, perchance?

The big question is, what does James May make of it all?

I once saw him in a shed in Essex trying a home-made strap on. He only managed to keep it up for a few seconds before completely discharging both tanks, ruining his own jeans in the process. Did anyone else see that programme? He said if he hadn't been tied down with bungee rope, he'd have ended up lurching uncontrollably until landing face first onto someone's garden. He didn't seem very hopeful of things improving any time soon, so I'm surprised this stable jet pack has appeared so quickly.

Oh, and I'm sure May'd be the first to use the word 'perchance'. I certainly do. I wonder where the poster who considers it a relic of the middle ages comes from. Presumably the same place that teaches English to this standard:

http://forum.filezilla-project.org/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=14582#p68770

I wonder if Justin Bieber has ever used the word 'perchance' either, or does his vocabulary have DOS-like limitations, right down to not caring about capital letters and ignoring most punctuation characters?

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re James May

what's your name, Finbarr Saunders? Utter filth, but good to see you pulled it off tho.

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not impressed(2)

Not to mention if the engine cuts out you will drill a nice hole in the ground, and they'll probably just cover it over.

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What about their planned UAV aspirations?

Has not one spotted this? Its mentioned on their website. UAV with hover capability. UAV would be lighter, quieter and ...more versatile where there are no airstrips. OK, maybe there are UAV helpcopters out there, but I guess that is why the military are interested, really.

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Gold badge
Headmaster

presumably the ducted fan makes more efficient use of the thrust

Which is important given the fairly limited fuel capacity of *all* of these sorts of things.

Is it *better* than dumping the duct and adding bigger fuel tanks? Well it should (provided the shell is shaped as a diffuser as other Reg reports have shown)

BTW AS the duct focuses the airflow through the system it *could* technically be referred to as a form of jet aircraft.

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Black Helicopters

The Mythbusters built one of these

from plans on the Internet. The upgraded the design to use ducted fans instead of open props and use an upgraded small-aircraft engine of much higher power. The FAA certified it as an experimental aircraft and the boys set about trying to fly it. Alas, it wouldn't even lift Buster the Crash Test Dummy let alone a lightweight human being like Adam Savage.

Sounds like a pork-barrel scam to me.

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WTF?

Didn't the Mythbusters do this already?

I distinctly remember an episode in which they built something almost identical and concluded "no workee".

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Go

Entertainment Only

MB is fun but it's no where scientific proof of anything. For that to happen, there has to be verification coupled with the ability to consistently repeat the experiment and get the same results. Mythbusters is just a bunch of comedians doing stuff for the fun of ot with no attempt to ever have the results verified. That makes everything they do pure shit.

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Completely pointless

The British Army has recently announced that it's going to stop almost all parachute training for paras. Why? Because there hasn't actually been a significant parachute assault since Suez, and look how well that turned out. There ain't a much worse place for a soldier to be than suspended in midair, visible to anyone who wants to take a potshot. All this nonsense would do is give the insurgents / freedom fighters a lot longer to get their eye in - and a much bigger target to hit.

Next!

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FAIL

Nice crash helmet

Can't see it helping much when you are 1000ft up and tumbling from the sky, a Frank Sidebottom head would probably be better PPE.

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Bronze badge

Hmmm looks familiar

Anyone else recognise this from the Mythbusters episode where they took the whole kit and showed how useless it was. Seem to recall that even with a LOT of mods to maximise the ducting benefits it could barely even lift it's own weight. While they may have been able to get a bit more thrust out of it that leaves it in a precarious position. As soon as you get out of ground effect you will lose the last of your thrust and with the areodynamics of a meccano brick there is mothing to help you out.

Why don't they go for the Buzz Lightyear wings which have been proven to work and just add a jato trolley to get the launch speed?

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I've flown this jetpack

Only people who haven't flown a jetpack could be as negative as some of the posters here.

Me, I was one of the first 30 people in the world to be strapped into, take off and hover in this magnificent flying machine. You can read about and see photos of my brief excursion here:

http://segwaynz.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/philip-bendall-flies-martin-jet-pack/

The Martin Jetpack really works, and easily lifted my 80kg suited-up weight. While it wasnt yet fully "fly-by-wire" when I tried it last year, I understand it is now just "point and go" so it automatically counteracts for pesky cross-winds, etc. I was told the 30 minute flight time is limited only by the size of the fuel tank, which is set to the maximum allowed current US 'ultra-light' regulations. Any Jetpack operated by the military can fit a much larger tank, as these reg's do not apply. I do agree it needs a little bit more power so more cargo can be carried.

Unlike the "personal helicopter" video linked to in the main story, the Jetpack is much quieter, and doesn't have nasty exposed blades. I wore a motocycle helmet and didn't find it particularly loud at all (it was similar to a motorbike, as I recall). There are all kinds of "flying low and slow" applications in the military that a refined version of the current device could perform.

And speaking of exo-skeletons, I "walked" in (or rather, was walk by) the REX Bionics breakthrough last week - that was pretty cool too:

http://segwaynz.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/philip-bendall-walks-rex-exoskeleton-rides-yike-bike/

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Limitations

The thing has obvious limitations - and there are problems with it. But the article reeks of negativism and subjectivity. Envy or bias anyone?

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Coat

the failure modes don't bear thinking about

No, it has a very simple failure mode - DOWN.

I suspect you could bring this thing down only with extremely potent and modern anti-aircraft weapons, say a hand-thrown eggplant?

Yep, the one thats aubergine-coloured, thanks.

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Joke

You don't understand ...

the primary aim of military procurement is to transfer large quantities of taxpayer money to private corporations. Final utility and effectiveness of the proposed equipment is a nice extra. Failure in this respect is nothing that can't be solved by more 'reserach and development' funding. Of course sometimes, such projects are cut before the ideal final product is developed, but the development money has been spent - result!

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Bronze badge

An "unmanned" jetpack

Pure brilliance.

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Go

"bumwad from the bank of toyland"

Marvellous. If only Moodys, S&P, Fitch and the rest had given proper ratings like this one, there would have been no financial crisis.

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Coat

i shall wait...

for the Mandalorian style jet pack, obviously I shall be aware of the flaw that it can be set off by merely tapping it with a stick. Worst demise ever!

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Crash and burn?

Interesting opinion pieces on them here:

http://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2010/0906.shtml

http://aardvark.co.nz/daily/2010/0830.shtml

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better than I thought

So I've been to the meeting.

I think the biggest problem here for the rest of us is that Martin is quite dismissive of the internet and is still being quite Secret Squirrel about things.

He did have pretty good answers to most of the questions though.

First thrust. They've steadily increased it. Yes, in 2008 it could lift his 60 kg son, but not him at 100 kg. Now in their demo videos you can see the engine at about 45% power flying with an 80 kg pilot.

The latest turbine is 92% efficient at turning mechanical energy into thrust. I'm not sure what to make of that but it seems pretty damn good. I guess the bad news is there isn't much more scope for improvement.

Control: the version shown in 2008 at Oshkosh was flown manually. They now have it computer stabilized (if you take your hands off then it goes into a stationary hover at fixed height), and remote controlled. They can program limitations such as maximum altitude or speed into it (much like a Segway in beginner mode). And they have it remote controlled. This is useful both for UAV applications and for teaching. They can now strap someone in with just a few minutes' instruction, put them in the middle of a field, and let them fly around (none of the helpers nearby you see in the earlier videos). If the student/joyrider makes a sufficiently bad mistake, an instructor can take over via remote control.

This is all working today.

The only remaining thing to do before first commercial sales is a BRS (emergency parachute).

Limitations. Under the assumption that the main use is recreational flying by unlicensed pilots (whether owners, or one-off joy riders like bungy jumpers or tandem parachutists), they're working to some FAA Part something which I stupidly didn't write down. Anyway, under these regulations they are limited to something like 250 kg weight (500 lb maybe?), 55 knots top speed, and 5 liters of fuel.

If other customers don't have these restrictions then they can easily be relaxed. A bigger fuel tank is easy, and changing a computer parameter would allow the current model to go probably 50% faster.

Applications: the military UAV applications are not to fly a long way or for a long time. They are typically something like taking off from the back of a truck and landing on top of a nearby building or hill top to serve as a communications relay.

They think they can see a near term market for 3500 of them, and can make a profit at that level. That seems entirely achievable.

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Headmaster

Misspelled word

"US Department of Defence"

Tsk. That should be "US Department of War."

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SSR
WTF?

Why So Negative?

A bit of negativity about the ole Mythbusters. I think they're a fairly canny pair who actually get pretty great results with "chewing gum and sticky tape". You don't always need billions of pounds and an R&D department to get a proof of concept, as their show demonstrates time and time again.

Certainly the blower throne concept they created was interesting, but was specifically designed to bust a myth about Internet plans for the device. They then upgraded the flawed Internet plans, and found that it could not lift their weight. I forget whether they wrote the device off completely, or just that it would require further refinement and more power to be a goer (at least vertically). Clearly control and power are the keys here, albeit the former is a whole can of worms, and that's no doubt understating... a cannery of worms?

And isn't Lewis always negative/sarcastic?

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