The race is well and truly on to bring a tried and tested, proven personal flight device to the market – and it seems to be down to two key players. Frenchman Franky Zapata has been zipping about on his Flyboard Air, setting the odd record and astonishing crowds, but six months before Zapata took to the skies, Aussie David Mayman was pirouetting around the Statue of Liberty aboard the JB-9 jetpack he created with master engineer Nelson Tyler.
Now, Mayman and Tyler's Jetpack Aviation has announced its first public flights in Europe with three scheduled events in Monaco this weekend that should be marked as mandatory viewing for any New Atlas readers in the area:
Thursday, September 29 at 5:00pm – at the heliport at Océanograpique Museum.
Friday, October 30 at 5:00pm – at the heliport alongside the Port of Fontvieille.
Saturday, October 1 at 5:00pm – taking off from the Fontvieille heliport and landing on a yacht.
When I last met Mayman at Jetpack Aviation HQ in Los Angeles this January, he and Tyler were wrestling with the idea of how to bring jetpack technology to the market responsibly because, clearly, with something like this, the potential for disaster is significant. Mayman told us the team was looking into the potential of automatic ballistic parachutes that fire when the jetpack's onboard computers detect an engine failure case.
Another key step in selling a jetpack system would be training. "I think we could train someone fairly intensively if we had them for a week," Mayman told us. "We've got a tether system with a cable. The idea is we'd set up an electric propulsion system so we don't have to refuel all the time and put hours on the turbine engines. It's also a lot easier to run electric engines than turbines for noise and smell, and all that, when you're operating downtown.
"We could run them up and down here all week, and then at the end of the week, get them on the turbine version, and on the turbine version they could go off the tether. You pretty quickly get a sense of what feels right and what works and what doesn't work. It's pretty intuitive."
The three public flights in Monaco will be our first look at the JB-10, as well as the first joint event Jetpack Aviation is putting on with Aerostar Monaco, which it's listing as a distributor. The company says it's also been working with the FAA to define a new classification for the jetpack and other vehicles like it, so all signs are certainly pointing toward a jetpack becoming commercially available in the very near future.
"We're ready to produce the JB-10 version now but only for over water usage until the parachute is completed," Mayman tells us. "The US military is helping with the parachute testing program under a Co-operative Research and Development Agreement."
So if you're in town, get down and take a look. Perhaps for our kids' generations, the jetpack can stop representing the future, and start representing a handy way to get around. I sure wish I could be there to see it!
The early test video below shows some of the capabilities of the JB series.
More information: Jetpack Aviation