back to article Boeing slams $2m on the desk, bellows: Now where's my jetpack?

Boeing and its pals today offered a whopping $2m (£1.49m) in prizes to anyone who can design and build a working “personal flying device." The GoFly competition aims to spur on the development of safe, quiet, ultra-compact jetpacks that can hover, take off and land, and fly for at least 20 miles. "Now is the time,” as the …

  1. Garry Perez

    Already done?

    I thought the JB9 has the problem licked, not sure on the range though.

    1. vir Silver badge

      Re: Already done?

      Also, I thought the jetpack from Thunderball was actually sorta real as well?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Already done?

        "The jetpack from Thunderball" aka the Bell Rocket Belt indeed was real - but the thing is, this new challenge is asking for something that can fly 20 miles and the original Bell Rocket Belt could manage about 20 seconds flight time.

        I do wonder if Boeing (etc) are being entirely honest about their hopes for the proposed new technology. It's hard to imagine regulatory authorities being entirely convinced of the overall benefits of personal jet packs given just how bad people are at driving cars along roads, for example - unless the envisioned end application is more along the lines of that intended for the Bell Rocket Belt (first demonstrated in 1961), namely that of improving infantry mobility.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Already done?

          Where does it say Boeing expects the general public to use this? It would be intended for military or rescue operations, not a shortcut to work over congested highways.

          You and I are never getting jetpacks.

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Already done?

            At least militarily, I thought this question had already been answered by the helicopter?

            Or failing that talk to Yves Rossy and his jet wingpack (which has flown across the English Channel successfully iirc).

            1. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge
              Pint

              Re: Already done? Yves Rossy

              ...Brave but quite barking. Shame he's not English. He'd fit right in. PP

          2. Monty Cantsin

            Re: Already done?

            "Where does it say Boeing expects the general public to use this?"

            From the article: “What we are seeking is an 'everyone' personal flying device, capable of being flown by ANYONE, ANYWHERE. It should be a device for ALL: young and old, city-dweller and country-dweller, expert and novice.”

            I'm not saying you're wrong about us never getting jetpacks, but Boeing pretty clearly state (in shouty capital letters, no less) that they expect the general public to be able to use it.

  2. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Go

    Candidate

    El Reg already reported on this enterprising chap.

    1. Mahhn

      Re: Candidate

      that is far from quiet.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. SteveCarr
    WTF?

    Martin JetPack already exists...

    ...taking orders, even!

    1. Raphael

      Re: Martin JetPack already exists...

      Except Martin Jetpacks is in desperate need of funding and is possibly closing down.

      https://i.stuff.co.nz/business/96463822/martin-jetpack-suspended-from-share-trading

  5. Christoph Silver badge

    Walls and fences will no longer be barriers - a burglar can land in your back yard or on your roof. Paparazzi can hover over you. Vandals can drop things from great heights.

    And then there's the stupid buggers who will fly into aircraft flight paths.

  6. John Doe 6

    WTF??

    It has already been done several times, first time in the 60'ties...

    There are several problems:

    * fuel capacity

    * heat

    * weight

    The previous main problem was stability but modern computers would fix that.

    Actually an ultralight autogyro would be a better solution for personal transport.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: WTF??

      It has already been done several times, first time in the 60'ties...

      There are several problems:

      * fuel capacity

      * heat

      * weight

      The previous main problem was stability but modern computers would fix that.

      Ultralights from the seventies fixed all of that.

      (They were an unholy cross between a hang glider and a go-kart.)

      Cheap, stable, could take off and land in mere meters.

      Hugely popular in the US until the FAA cracked down, then you could only use them if you owned a large field to fly over, or spent months doing paperwork and getting permissions, per flight.

      The same thing that'll happen to anything that comes out of this.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: WTF??

        If cars were newly invented today - you and I would never get to drive one.

        You'd have to show that you'd completed not only your mandatory training plus X hours of on-road experience, but also sit exams in mechanical theory, legal liability and queuing theory. You'd have to show that you had a safe parking space, and that you knew what routes you planned to take everywhere. Then you'd have to maintain a log of your travel, prove that you'd driven at least 100 hours a year, and re-take the exams every 3 years.

        Fortunately (?), cars were grandfathered in from a simpler time. But jetpacks would face all this and more.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: WTF??

          Possibly not: under UK rules they'd probably pass under the foot-launched-aircraft exception (I need to check the wording, but afaik with one special exception that's basically anything under a certain weight that doesn't have wheels).

          The rest of the Air Navigation Order applies, though (someone was fined fifteen hundred quid recently for being in a CTA without permission) and I suspect the insurance requirements would be, um, interesting.

          But as the ANO states: you can't overfly cities or groups of people, which will make commuting problematical.

  7. smartse

    "What we are seeking is an 'everyone' personal flying device, capable of being flown by ANYONE, ANYWHERE. It should be a device for ALL"

    Does that include the morbidly obese?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Boffin

      "Does that include the morbidly obese?"

      Anything will fly if you add enough enough propellors!

      Professor E.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: "Does that include the morbidly obese?"

        "Anything will fly if you add enough enough propellors! - Professor E."

        Filthy plagiarist! - Robur the Conqueror

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Joke

      "Does that include the morbidly obese?"

      Shame on you!

      Don't you know the number of grossly obese USians is grossly exaggerated by the MSM?

      Anyway that's what the "Turbo" option is for.

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    What ARE they babbling about?

    It's been done. YouTube jet pack. Micro jet engines. Fairly decent flight time. Easy to fly with minimal training.

  9. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Ultralights: Bicycles of the Skies - was how National Geographic covered them back in the seventies. Thanks for providing information about what happened to microlights since.

    The silence criterion... Owls fly very quietly... lots of owls.. on string... Hmmm, will need to silence the upset squawking but that's an engineering problem.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Squawking? That's not a problem... duct/duck/gaffer tape. The problem will be removing the tape at feeding time without losing a finger to a rather irritated owl.

    2. MrDamage

      Cat + buttered toast

      Personal levitation and gyroscopic device all in one.

  10. Sureo

    Should be fun....

    JetPacking around here in winter during a blizzard.

  11. Lysenko Silver badge

    Well, there's one positive aspect...

    Since such a contraption is essentially a human piloted fuel/air bomb, we might have fewer panic stories about toy quadcopters (the DRONES are coming!!) with a payload capacity of two chocolate biscuits.

  12. JCitizen
    Alert

    The flyboard is promising..

    if you believe it will reach that range. An expert (Zapata) can make it look like any kid that can use a skate board can fly it, but I'd sooner believe it could use computer control for most pilots. If it is a fake - it is a very good one - not sure it could fly 20 miles though - but then, no one knows what the fuel limit in weight is on the thing, if it isn't a fantastic hoax!!

  13. ukgnome Silver badge

    It is never gonna happen.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      " It is never gonna happen."

      "Never" is a very long time.

      Wheather it will happen how most people expect it to happen.

      Wheather it will happen on a time scale people expect.

      Those are other questions.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Not even going to pretend to apologise

        Wheather it will happen how most people expect it to happen.

        Wheather it will happen on a time scale people expect.

        I'll be staying indoors today; this is the worst spell of whether I've seen in ages! ☺

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    There have also been a number of "strap on" helicopters from the Easter Block in the 70's

    Engineering this is really quite tough. Most of the "jet packs" were in fact rockets (because jets actually have pretty poor T/W ratio unless they're attached to wings). The constantly falling mass meant take off was easy, but hovering and landing insanely tricky. Like the lunar landing simulator, but without the on board computer.

    So how fast do you want to go? As you're carrying the fuel can it needs to be fuel efficient as well. My instinct is contra rotating rotor blades could be adequately quiet, relatively easy to steer and reasonably fast but sadly lacks the "coolness" factor of the turbojet whine of a supersonic airflow at your back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There have also been a number of "strap on" helicopters from the Easter Block in the 70's

      They've gone a stage better than that now. Boeing are just pissed off that the Ruskies did it first.

      Do you think the Russians will enter the competition? No, I think not either. Of course, it won't have helped that a Russian won a UK defence competition, but was denied the prize money.

    2. JamesPond

      Re: There have also been a number of "strap on" helicopters from the Easter Block in the 70's

      "My instinct is contra rotating rotor blades could be adequately quiet"

      With good shredding ability for the birds and trees that get in the way.

  15. hplasm Silver badge
    Happy

    Rocketeer.

    Obviously the prize will go to the entry with the best hat.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Rocketeer.

      I think Inspector Gadget might just claim prior art on this one...

  16. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    Let me guess, Boeing will own the IP of any design submitted?

  17. Milton Silver badge

    Oh come off it

    Twin-engined commercial airliners have oversized, over-powerful engines. Why? because they have to be able to climb out safely even if one engine flames out permanently and completely at the worst possible moment, just after V1 (speed of no return: you gotta take off). If certified for ETOPS240, one engine has to be able to keep the plane aloft for four hours above the ocean, to get you to land, if the other fails.

    It is unthinkable that a personal flightpack would be much less safe than a commercial airliner, for the same reason you'll never see large numbers of heavy (>10kg) drones over built-up areas or other concentrations of people (whatever shyte Amazon comes out with). That's because with large numbers the probability approaches certainty that people on the ground will be regularly maimed and killed by falling hardback "50 Shades of Crap" compilations.

    The economics of delivering shiny tat mean that you simply cannot fly a fleet of thousands of drones to the same safety levels as commercial passenger travel.

    And you cannot make affordable flightpacks for public use to the same standard as commercial airliners, not only in this case because of economic exigencies but also because you'd need two engines, *each* separately capable of flight. The weight penalty makes the concept hopeless. You can't expect them all to have parachutes, since however easy that activity looks, it is not—and even the best parachutists would think twice before jumping over a busy city. (Even jumping a well-trained parachute company onto uneven terrain is expected to cause significant casualties.)

    None of which even touches on the question of user training; carrying enough luggage (backpack, laptop, books, shopping?) to make the trip worthwhile; collision avoidance (with each other/drones/buildings/birds/Flight BA009 on finals); traffic control; certification; refuelling points; safety checks ... all in all, while the idea might be trailblazing some low-cost engine technology, as a concept for mass travel it is beyond stupid.

  18. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Joke

    Giant Springs.

    They might not manage long flights, but for short hops...

    Boeing, time for bed - said Zebedee.

  19. Andrew Lobban

    Surely jet packs are dead before they've even got off the ground!

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2017/02/14/dubai-autonomous-taxi-drones-ehang/

  20. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Fly the F*ckwit Skies

    OH, For the Love of G-d. You can't give MOST peepul, ESPECIALLY Americans, a can opener without them nearly disemboweling someone and provoking an International Conflict. NONE of 'em can drive, spell OR read- WHY would you give them JetPacks????

    As the G-d Emperor Lord Leto so sagely noted: "Make th' lil' f*ckers walk. They could use the exercise."

  21. Daedalus Silver badge

    Smells fishy

    Note that Boeing are only "sponsors". This is all hosted on some kind of crowdw*nking site (herox.com) with lots of optimistic patter. The GoFly people may or may not know what they're talking about: as others have pointed out, the tech for this exists in micro-jets but you can't lift a person and enough fuel to make the required distance. In any case nobody in their right mind would strap on something with an exhaust temperature that would burn you to a crisp. The James Bond rocket belt would have flayed the flesh of anyone foolish enough to put a hand in the super-heated steam exhaust.

    By the time you've added safety stuff, flight controls, redundancy etc. you've got an aircraft, not a "personal flying device".

    My verdict: somebody is running a nice little scam.

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Smells fishy

      Herox.com also hosted the "NASA Space Poop Challenge".

      In S-P-A-A-A-A-C-E !

      Changes the smell a bit, I guess...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah sure, that's what you want

    Would you really want the sky filled with the sort of people who can't even DRIVE to a sensible standard?

    No thanks. Someone's been watching too many Jetsons cartoons.

  23. JamesPond
    Flame

    1.25m road deaths per year

    In a car you only have to miss someone else coming from the x & y axis. How many deaths are there going to be when we all have to add in the Z axis? Boeing might be putting up $2m for this but how many civil aviation authorities are going to allow personal air-transportation packs when we can't even use small drones without putting planes at risk?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: 1.25m road deaths per year

      Although in theory having 3 dimensions to get of the way in is much better than two.

      Part of the problem is vehicles are constrained to roads, and the FAA tends to do the same thing with planes, even if there is no actual need to any more.

  24. MajorTom

    Never Say Never

    Bond: Commander Pederson, are you equipped with the new XT-7Bs?

    Cmdr: That's top secret. How do you know about them?

    Bond: From a Russian translation of one of your service manuals.

  25. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    ICBH

    Just needs a few tweaks, a bit more power, and the Intra-County Ballistic Human apparatus from the minds the folks who brought us iBots, Segways, & Slingshots will have this prize sorted. Just got to work on sticking the landing a bit.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. ICBH

    What you really need is a small nuclear plant, then normal water (ideally DI) would be used as propellant.

    Arthur C Clarke had it right, although the problem is shielding.

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